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Of Boston, Mass. 

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53 Vesey SireeU 


In presenting to the public another book of travels 
in the East, when it is already overwhelmed with 
little volumes about the palm-trees and camels, and 
reflections on the Pyramids, I am aware that I am 
committing an act which requires some better 
excuse for so unwarrantable an intrusion on the 
patience of the reader than any that I am able to 

The origin of these pages is as follows : — I was 
staying by myself in an old country-house belonging 
to my family, but not often inhabited by them, and, 
having nothing to do in the evening, I looked about 
for some occupation to amuse the passing hours. 
In the room where I was sitting there was a large 
book-case full of ancient manuscripts, many of 
which had been collected by myself, in various 
out-of-the-way places, in different parts of the world. 
Taking some of these ponderous volumes from their 
shelves, I turned over their wide vellum leaves, and 
admired the antiquity of one, and the gold and azure 
which gleamed upon the pages of another. The 
sight of these books brought before my mind many 
scenes and recollections of the countries from which 
they came, and I said to myself, I know what I will 
do ; I will write down some account of the most 
curious of these manuscripts, and the places in 
which they were found, as well as some of the 


adventures which I encountered in the pursuit of 
my venerable game. 

I sat down accordingly, and in a short time 
accumulated a heap of papers connected more or 
less with the history of the ancient manuscripts ; at 
the desire of some of my friends I selected the 
following pages, and it is with great diffidence that 
I present them to the public. If they have any 
merits whatever, these must consist in their 
containing descriptions of localities but seldom 
visited in modern times ; or if they refer to places 
better known to the general reader, I hope that 
the peculiar circumstances which occurred during 
my stay there, or on my journeys through the 
neighboring countries, may be found sufficiently 
interesting to afford some excuse for my presumption 
in sending them to the press. 

I have no further apology to offer. These slight 
sketches were written for my own diversion when I 
had nothing better to do, and if they afford any 
pleasure to the reader under the same circumstances, 
they will answer as much purpose as was intended 
in their composition. 


EGYPT IN 1 833. 


Navarino— The Wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian Fleets— 
Alexandria — An Arab Pilot — Intense Heat— Scene from the 
Hotel Windows — The Water- Carriers — A Procession— A Bridal 
Party — Violent mode of clearing the Road — Submissive Beha- 
viour of the People— Astonishing Number of Donkeys— Bedouin 
Arabs; their wild and savage appearance — Early Hours — Visit 
to the Pasha's Prime Minister, Boghos Bey ; hospitable reception 
— Kawasses and Chaoushes ; their functions and powers — The 
Yassakjis — The Minister's Audience Chamber — Walmas; anec- 
dote of his saving the life of Boghos„Bey . Page 1 


Rapacity of the Dragomans — The Mahmoudieh Canal— The Nile 
at Atfeh— The muddy Waters of the Nile— Richness of the Soil 
— Accident to the Boatmen — Night Sailing — A Collision — A 
Vessel run down — Escape of the Crew — Solemn Investigation- 
Final Judgment— Curious Mode of Fishing — Tameness of the 
Birds — Jewish Malefactors — Moving Pillar of Sand — Arrival at 
Cairo — Hospitable Reception by the Consul- General 13 


National Topics of Conversation — The Rising of the Nile ; evil 
effects of its rising too high; still worse consequences of a 
deficiency of its waters — The Nilometer — Universal Alarm in 
August, 1833— The Nile at length rises to the desired Height — 
Ceremony of qutting the Embankment — The Canal of the 
Khalidj — Immense Assemblage of People — The State Tent — 
Arrival of Habeeb Effendi— Splendid Dresses of the Officers- 
Exertions of the Arab Workmen — Their Scramble for Paras — 
Admission of the Water— Its sudden Irruption — Excitement of 
the Ladies— Picturesque Effect of large Assemblies in the 
East 24 


Early Hours in the Levant — Compulsory Use of Lanterns in Cairo 
— Separation of the different Quarters of the City— Custom of 


sleeping in the open air — The Mahomedan Times of Prayer- 
Impressive Effect of the Morning Call to Prayer from the Mina- 
rets—The last Prayer-time, Al Assr— Bedouin Mode of ascertain- 
ing this Hour — Ancient Form of the Mosques — The Mosque ot 
Sultan Hassan — Egyptian Mode of " raising the Supplies" — 
Sultan Hassan's Mosque the scene of frequent Conflicts — The 
Slaughter of the Mameluke Beys in the place of Roumayli — 
Escape of one Mameluke, and his subsequent Friendship with Mo- 
hammed Ali— The Talisman of Cairo—Joseph's Well and Hall — 
Mohammed Ali's Mosque — his Residence in the Citadel — The 
Harem — Degraded State of the Women of the East Page 31 


Interview with Mohammed Ali Pasha — Mode of lighting a Room 
in Egypt — Personal Appearance of the Pasha — His Diamond- 
mounted Pipe— The lost Handkerchief— An unceremonious At- 
tendant — View of Cairo from the Citadel — Site of Memphis ; 
its immense extent — The Tombs of the Caliphs — The Pasha's 
Mausoleum — Costume of Egyptian Ladies — The Cobcob, or 
Wooden Clog — Mode of dressing the Hair — The Veil — Mistaken 
Idea that the Egyptian Ladies are Prisoners in the Harem ; their 
power of doing as they like — The Veil a complete Disguise — 
Laws of the Harem —A Levantine Beauty — Eastern Manners — 
The Abyssinian Slaves — Arab Girls — Ugliness of the Arab 
Women when old — Venerable Appearance of the old Men — An 
Arab Sheick 41 


Mohammed Bey, Defterdar — His Expedition to Senaar — His Bar- 
barity and Rapacity — His Defiance of the Pasha— Stories of his 
Cruelty and Tyranny— The Horse-Shoe — The Fight of the Ma- 
melukes — His cruel Treachery — His Mode of administering 
Justice — The stolen Milk— The Widow's Cow — Sale and Dis- 
tribution of the Thief— The Turkish Character — Pleasures of a 
Journey on the Nile — The Copts — Their Patriarchs — The Pa- 
triarch of Abyssinia — Basileos Bey — His Boat— An American's 
choice of a Sleeping-place 56 



Visit to the Coptic Monasteries near the Natron Lakes— The De- 
sert of Nitria— Early Christian Anchorites— St. Macarius of Alex- 
andria — His Abstinence and Penance — Order of Monks founded 
by him— Great increase of the Number of ascetic Monks in the 
Fourth Century— Their subsequent decrease, and the present 
ruined state of the Monasteries— Legends of the Desert— Capture 


of a Lizard — Its alarming escape — The Convent of Baramous— 
Night attacks— Invasion of Sanctuary— Ancient Gluw Lamps- 
Monastery of Souriani — Its Library and Coptic MSS. — The Blind 
Abbot and his Oil-cellar— The persuasive powers of Ro4o.;lio— 
Discovery of Syriac MSS. — The Abbot's supposed treasure Page (i»5 


View from the Convent Wall — Appearance of the Desert— Its 
grandeur and freedom — Its contrast to the Convent Garden- 
Beauty and luxuriance of Eastern Vegetation— Pictures -jue Group 
of the Monks and their Visitors — The Abyssinian Monks — Their 
appearance— their austere mode of Life — The Abyssinian Col- 
lege — Description of the Library — The mode of writing in Abys- 
sinia — Immense Labour required to write an Abyssinian book — 
Paintings and Illuminations — Disappointment of the Abbot at 
finding the supposed Treasure-box only an old Book — Purchase 
of the MSS. and Books — The most precious left behind — Since 
acquired for the British Museum . 7'J 



The Convent of the Pulley— Its inaccessible position — Difficult 
landing on the bank of the Nile — Approach to the Convent 
through the Rocks — Description of the Convent and its In- 
habitants — Plan of the Church — Books and MSS. — Ancient 
excavations — Stone Quarries and ancient Tombs— Alarm of the 
Copts — Their ideas of a Sketch-book . .92 



Ruined Monastery in the Necropolis of Thebes — " Mr. Hay's 
Tomb" — The Coptic Carpenter — His acquirements and troubles 
—He agrees to show the MSS. belonging to the ruined Monas- 
tery, which are under his charge — Night visit to the Tomb in 
which they are concealed — Perils of the way— Description of 
the Tomb — Probably in former times a Christian Church — 
Examination of the Coptic MSS. — Alarming interruption — 
Hurried flight from the Evil Spirits — Fortunate escape — 
Appearance of the Evil Spirit — Observations on Ghost Stories 
—The Legend of the Old Woman of Berkeley considered 103 




The White Monastery — Abou Shenood — Devastations of the Ma- 
melukes — Description of the Monastery — Different styles of its 
exterior and interior Architecture — Its ruinous condition — De- 
scription of the Church — The Baptistery — Ancient rites of 
Baptism — The Library — Modern Architecture — The Church of 
San Francesco at Rimini — The Red Monastery — Alarming ren- 
contre with an armed party — Feuds between the native Tribes — 
Faction fights — Eastern Story Tellers — Legends of the Desert — 
Abraham and Sarah — Legendary Life of Moses — Arabian Story- 
tellers — Attention of their Audience . . . Page 113 



The Island of Philoe — The Cataract of Assouan — The Burial Place 
of Osiris— The Great Temple of Philoe— The Bed of Pharaoh- 
Shooting in Egypt — Turtle Doves— Story of the Prince Anas el 
Ajoud — Egyptian Songs — Vow of the Turtle Dove— Curious 
fact in Natural History — The Crocodile and its Guardian Bird- 
Arab notions regarding Animals — Legend of King Solomon and 
the Hoopoes — Natives of the country round the Cataracts of the 
Nile — Their appearance and Costume— The beautiful Mouna — 
Solitary Visit to the Island of Philoe — Quarrel between two 
native Boys— Singular instance of retributive Justice . 123 



Journey to Jerusalem — First View of the Holy City — The Valley 
of Gihon — Appearance of the City — The Latin Convent of St. 
Salvador— Inhospitable Reception by the Monks — Visit to the 
Church of the Holy Sepulchre — Description of the Interior — 
The Chapel of the Sepulchre — The Chapel of the Cross on 
Mount Calvary— The Tomb and Sword of Godfrey de Bouillon — 
Arguments in favour of the Authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre 
r— The Invention of the Cross by the Empress Helena— Legend 
of the Cross 143 



The Via Dolorosa— The Houses of Dives and of Lazarus— The 
Prison of St. Peter— The Site of the Temple of Solomon— The 
Mosque of Omar— The Hadjr el Sakhara — The Greek Monastery 
— Its Library — Valuable Manuscripts— Splendid MS. of the Book 
of Job — Arabic spoken at Jerusalem — Mussulman Theory re- 
garding the Crucifixion— State of the Jews— Richness of their 
Dress in their own Houses— Beauty of their Women — Their 
literal Interpretation of Scripture — The Service in the Synagogue 
— Description of the House of a Rabbi— The Samaritans— 
Their Roll of the Pentateuch — Arrival of Ibrahim Pasha at 
Jerusalem Page 153 


Expedition to the Monastery of St. Sabba — Reports of Arab Rob- 
bers—The Valley of Jehoshaphat— The Bridge of Al Si rat — 
Rugged Scenery — An Arab Ambuscade — A successful Parley — 
The Monastery of St. Sabba— History of the Saint— The Greek 
Hermits — The Church— The Iconostasis — The Library — Nume- 
rous MSS.— The Dead Sea— The Scene of the Temptation- 
Discovery — The Apple of the Dead Sea— The Statements of 
Strabo and Pliny confirmed ..... 168 


Church of the Holy Sepulchre — Processions of the Copts — The 
Syrian Maronites and the Greeks— Riotous Behaviour of the Pil- 
grims — Their immense numbers — The Chant of the Latin Monks 
— Ibrahim Pasha — The Exhibition of the Sacred Fire — Excite- 
ment of the Pilgrims — The Patriarch obtains the Sacred Fire 
from the Holy Sepulchre— Contest for the Holy Light— Immense 
sum paid for the privilege of receiving it first— Fatal Effects of 
the Heat and smoke — Departure of Ibrahim Pasha— Horrible 
Catastrophe — Dreadful Loss of Life among the Pilgrims in their 
endeavours to leave the Church— Battle with the Soldiers — Our 
Narrow Escape— Shocking Scene in the Court of the Church — 
Humane Conduct of Ibrahim Pasha— Superstition of the Pilgrims 
regarding Shrouds — Scallop Shells and Palm Branches— The 
Dead Muieteer — Moonlight View of the Dead Bodies— The 
Curse on Jerusalem — Departure from the Holy City . 182 



Albania— Ignorance at Corfu concerning that Country — Its report- 
ed abundance of Game and Robbers — The Disturbed State of the 
Country— The Albanians — Richness of their Arms — Their free 


use of them — Comparative Safety of Foreigners — Tragic Fate of 
a German Botanist — Arrival at Gominitza — Ride to Paramathia 
— A Night's Bivouac — Reception at Paramathia — Albanian Ladies 
— Yanina — Albanian Mode of settling a Quarrel — Expected 
Attack from Robbers — A Body-Guard Mounted— Audience with 
the Vizir — His Views of Criminal Jurisprudence — Retinue of 
the Vizir— His Troops — Adoption of the European Exercises — 
Expedition to Berat— -Calmness and Self-possession of the Turks 
— Active Preparations for Warfare— Scene at the Bazaar — 
Valiant Promises of the Soldiers .... Page 204 


Start for Meteora — Rencontre with a Wounded Traveller — Bar- 
barity of the Robbers— Albanian Innkeeper — Effect of the 
Turkish Language upon the Greeks— Mezzovo — Interview with 
the chief Person in the Village — Mount Pindus — Capture by 
Robbers — Salutary effects of Swaggering — Arrival under Escort 
at the Robbers' Head-Quarters — Affairs take a favourable turn— 
An unexpected Friendship with the Robber Chief — The Khan 
of Malacash — Beauty of the Scenery — Activity of our Guards- 
Loss of Character — Arrival at Meteora . . . 224 


Meteora— The extraordinary Character of its Scenery— Its Caves 
formerly the Resort of Ascetics— Barbarous Persecution of the 
Hermits — Their extraordinary Religious Observances — Singular 
Position of the Monasteries — The Monastery of Barlaam — The 
difficulty of reaching it — Ascent by a Windlass and Net, or by 
Ladders — Narrow Escape — Hospitable Reception by the Monks 
— The Agoumenos, or Abbot — His strict Fast — Description of 
the Monastery — The Church — Symbolism in the Greek Church 
— Respect for Antiquity — The Library — Determination of the 
Abbot not to sell any of the MSS. — The Refectory — Its Deco- 
rations — Aerial Descent — The Monastery of Hagios Stephanos 
— Its Carved Iconostasis — Beautiful View from the Monastery 
— Monastery of Agia Triada — Summary Justice at Triada- 
Monastery of Agia Roserea — Its Lady Occupants — Admission 
refused . . ... 243 


The great Monastery of Meteora — The Church — Ugliness of the 
Portraits of Greek Saints — Greek Mode of Washing the Hands— 
A Monastic Supper — Morning View from the Monastery — The 
Library— Beautiful MSS —Their Purchase— The Kitchen- 
Discussion among the Monks as to the Purchase Money for the 
MSS. — The MSS. reclaimed — A last Look at their Beauties- 
Proposed Assault of the Monastery by the Robber Escort 259 


Return Journey — Narrow Escape — Consequences of Singing — Ar- 
rival at the Khan of Malacash— Agreeable Anecdote— Parting 


from the Robbers at Mezzovo— A Pilau— Wet Ride to Parama- 
thia — Accident to the Baggage Mule — Its wonderful Escape- 
Novel Costume — A Deputation— Return to Corf* Page 271 



Constantinople— The Patriarch's Palace — The Plague, Anecdotes, 
Superstitions— The Two Jews — Interview with the Patriarch — 
Ceremonies of Reception — The Patriarch's Misconception as to 
the Archbishop of Canterbury — He addresses a Firman to the 
Monks of Mount Athos — Preparations for Departure — The Ugly 
Greek Interpreter — Mode of securing his Fidelity . 2^2 


Coom Calessi — Uncomfortable Quarters — A Turkish Boat and its 
Crew — Grandeur of the Scenery — Legend of Jason and tho 
Golden Fleece — The Island of Imbros — Heavy Rain Storm— A 
Rough Sea — Lemnos — Bad Accommodation — The Old Woman's 
Mattress and its Contents— Striking View of Mount Athos from 
the Sea— The Hermit of the Tower .... 295 


Monastery of St. Laura — Kind Reception by the Abbot — Astonish- 
ment of the Monks — History of the Monastery — Rules of the 
Order of St. Basil— Description of the Buildings — Curious Pic- 
tures of the last judgment — Early Greek Paintings ; Richness ot 
their Frames and Decorations — Ancient Church Plate — Beautiful 
Reliquary — The Refectory — The Abbot's Savoury Dish — The 
Library — The MSS. — Riae to the Monastery of Caracalla — 
Magnificent Scenery 307 


The Monastery of Caracalla — Its beautiful Situation — Hospitable 
Reception — Description of the Monastery — Legend of its Foun- 
dation — The Church — Fine Specimens of Ancient Jewellery — 
The Library — The Value attached to the Books by the Abbot — 
He agrees to sell some of the MSS. — Monastery of Philotheo — 
The Great Monastery of Iveron — History of its Foundation — Its 
Magnificent Library — Ignorance of the Monks — Superb MSS.— 
The Monks refuse to part with any of the MSS. — Beauty of the 
Scenery of Mount Athos 326 

The Monastery of Stavroniketa — The Library — Splendid MS. af , 


St. Chrysostom-'-The Monastery of Pantocratoras — Ruinous Con- 
dition of the Library — Complete Destruction of the Books — Dis- 
appointment — Oration to the Monks — The Great Monastery of 
Vatopede — Its History — Ancient Pictures in the Church — Le- 
gend of the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin — The Library — Wealth 
and Luxury of the Monks — The Monastery of Sphigmenou— 
Beautiful Jewelled Cross — The Monastery of Kiliantari — Magni 
ficent MS. in Gold Letters on White Vellum — The Monasteries 
of Zographou, Castamoneta, Doeheirou, and Xenophou — The 
Exiled Bishops — The Library — Very fine MSS. — Proposals for 
their Purchase — Lengthened Negotiations — Their successful 
Issue Page 339 


The Monastery of Russicc— Its Courteous Abbot — The Monaster/ 
of Xeropotamo — Its History — High Character of its Abbot — 
Excursion to the Monasteries of St. Nicholas and St. Dionisius— 
Interesting Relics — Magnificent Shrine — The Library — The 
Monastery of St. Paul — Respect shown by the Monks — Beautiful 
MS. — Extraordinary Liberality and Kindness of the Abbot and 
Monks — A valuable Acquisition at little Cost — The Monastery 
of Simopetra — Purchase of MS. — The Monk of Xeropotamo— 
His Ideas about Women — Excursion to Cariez— The Monastery 
of Coutloumoussi — The Russian Book-Stealer— History of the 
Monastery — Its reputed Destruction by the Pope of Rome — The 
Aga of Cairez — Interview in a Kiosk — The She Cat of Mount 
Athos 358 


Caracalla— The Agoumenos — Curious Cross — The Nuts of Cara 
calla— Singular Mode of preparing a Dinner Table — Departure 
from Mount Athos— Packing of the MSS.— Difl&cul ties of the 
Way— Voyage to the Dardanelles— Apprehended Attack from 
Pirates — Return to Constantinople . . . 378 


The costumes are from drawing! made at Constantinople by a Maltese artist 
They are all portraits, and represent the costumes worn at the pr es ent day in 
different parts of the Turkish Empire. The others are from drawings and 
sketches by the Author, except one from a beautiful drawing by Lord Eastnor, 
for which the Author begs to express his thanks and obligations. 


The Monastery op Meteora, from the Monas- 
tery of Barlaam. From a Drawing by }> Frontispiece 
Viscount Eastnor 
Interior of the Court of a Greek Monastery Title Vignette 
Koord, or Native of Koordistan . .To face page xxii. 
Negress waiting to be Sold .... „ 5 

Bedouin Arab „ 6 

Egyptian in the Nizam Dress .... „ 43 

Interior of an Abyssinian Library ... „ 98 

Mendicant Dervish „ 121 

Plan of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, 

Jerusalem „ 148 

The Monastery of St. Barlaam ... M . 204 

Tartar, or Government Messenger . „ 206 

Turkish common Soldier „ 218 

The N.W. View of the Promontory of Mount 

Athos » 282 

Greek Sailor » 298 

The Monastery of Simofetra .... » 368 

Circassian Lady » 371 

Turkish Lady in the Yashmak or Veil . . „ 376 



A more enlarged account of the Monasteries of the 
Levant would, I think, be interesting for many reasons if 
the task was undertaken by some one much more com- 
petent than myself to do justice to so curious a subject. 
In these monasteries resided the early fathers of the 
Church, and within the precincts of their time-hallowed 
walls were composed those writings which have since been 
looked up to as the rules of Christian life : from thence 
also were promulgated the doctrines of the Heresiarchs, 
which, in the early ages of the Church, were the causes 
of so much dissension and confusion, rancour and persecu- 
tion, in the disastrous days of the decline and fall of the 
Roman empire. 

The monasteries of the East are besides particularly 
interesting to the lovers of the picturesque, from the 
beautiful situations in which they are almost invariably 
placed. The monastery of Megaspelion, on the coast of 
the Gulf of Corinth, is built in the mouth of an enormous 
cave. The monasteries of Meteora, and some of those on 
Mount Athos, are remarkable for their positions on the tops 
of inaccessible rocks ; many of the convents in Syria, the 
islands of Cyprus, Candia, the Archipelago, and the 
Prince's Islands in the Sea of Marmora, are unrivalled for 
the beauty of the positions in which they stand ; many 
others in Bulgaria, Asia Minor, Sinope, and other places 
on the shores of the Black Sea, are most curious monu- 
ments of ancient and romantic times. There is one on 
the road to Persia, about one day's journey inland from 
Trebizond, which is built half way up the side of a per- 


pendicular precipice ; it is ensconced in several fissures 
of the rock, and various little gardens adjoining the 
buildings display the industry of the monks ; these are 
laid out on shelves or terraces wherever the nature of the 
spot affords a ledge of sufficient width to support the soil ; 
the different parts of the monastery are approached by 
stairs and flights of steps cut in the face of the precipice, 
leading from one cranny to another ; the whole has the 
appearance of a bas-relief stuck against a wall ; this mo- 
nastery partakes of the nature of a large swallow's nest. 
But it is for their architecture that the monasteries of the 
Levant are more particularly deserving of study ; for, 
after the remains of the private houses of the Romans at 
Pompeii, they are the most ancient specimens extant of 
domestic architecture. The refectories, kitchens, and the 
cells of the monks exceed in point of antiquity anything 
of the kind in Europe. The monastery of St. Katherine 
at Mount Sinai has hardly been altered since the sixth 
century, and still contains ornaments presented to it by 
the Emperor Justinian. The White Monastery and the 
monastery at Old Cairo, both in Egypt, are still more 
ancient. The monastery of Kuzzul Vank, near the sources 
of the Euphrates, is, I believe, as old as the fifth century. 
The greater number in all the countries where the Greek 
faith prevails, were built before the year 1000. Most 
monasteries possess crosses, candlesticks, and reliquaries, 
many of splendid workmanship, and of the era of the 
foundation of the buildings which contain them, while their 
mosaics and fresco paintings display the state of the arts 
from the most early periods. 

It has struck me as remarkable that the architecture 
of the churches in these most ancient monasteries is hardly 
ever fine ; they are usually small, being calculated only 
for the monks, and not for the reception of any other con- 
gregation. The Greek churches, even those which are 


not monastic, are far inferior both in size and interest to 
the Latin basilicas of Rome. With the single exception 
of the church (now mosque) of St. Sophia, there is no 
Byzantine church of any magnitude. The student of 
ecclesiastical antiquities need not extend his architectural 
researches beyond the shores of Italy ; there is nothing in 
the East so curious as the church of St. Clemente at Rome, 
which contains all the original fittings of the choir. The 
churches of St. Ambrogio at Milan, of Sta. Maria 
Trastevere at Rome, the first church dedicated to the 
Blessed Virgin ; the church of St. Agnese near Rome, the 
first in which galleries were built over the side aisles for 
the accommodation of women, who, neither in the Eastern 
nor Western churches, ever mixed with the men for many 
centuries ; all these and several others in Italy afford more 
instruction than those of the East — they are larger, more 
magnificent, and in every respect superior to the ecclesi- 
astical buildings of the Levant. But the poverty of the 
Eastern church, and its early subjection to Mahometan 
rulers, while it has kept down the size and splendour of 
the churches, has at the same time been the means of 
preserving the monastic establishments in all the rude 
originality of their ancient forms. In ordinary situations 
these buildings are of the same character : they resemble 
small villages, built mostly without much regard to any 
symmetrical plan, around a church which is constructed in 
the form of a Greek cross ; the roof is covered either with 
one or five domes ; all these buildings are surrounded by 
a high, strong wall, built as a fortification to protect the 
brotherhood within, not without reason, even in the present 
day. I have been quietly dining in a monastery, when 
shouts have been heard, and shots have been fired against 
the stout bulwarks of the outer walls, which, thanks to 
their protection, had but little effect in delaying the transit 
of the morsel between my fingers into the ready gulf pro- 


vided by nature for its reception. The monks of the Greek 
Church have diminished in number and wealth of late 
years, their monasteries are no longer the schools of 
learning which they used to be ; few can read the Hellenic 
or ancient Greek ; and the following anecdote will suffice 
to show the estimation in which a conventual library has 
not unusually been held. A Russian, or I do not know 
whether he was not a French traveller, in the pursuit, as 
I was, of ancient literary treasures, found himself in a 
great monastery in Bulgaria to the north of the town of 
Cavalla ; he had heard that the books preserved in this 
remote building were remarkable for their antiquity, and 
for the subjects on which they treated. His dismay and 
disappointment may be imagined when he was assured by 
the agoumenos or superior of the monastery, that it con- 
tained no library whatever, that they had nothing but the 
liturgies and church books, and no palaia pragmata or an- 
tiquities at all. The poor man had bumped upon a pack- 
saddle over villainous roads for many days for no other 
object, and the library of which he was in search had 
vanished as the visions of a dream. The agoumenos 
begged his guest to enter with the monks into the choir, 
where the almost continual church service was going on, 
and there he saw the double row of long-bearded holy 
fathers, shouting away at the chorus of xupie sXsiCov, xpitfre 
sXsitfov (pronounced Kyre eleizon, Christe eleizon), which 
occurs almost every minute, In the ritual of the Greek 
Church. Each of the monks was standing to save his 
bare legs from the damp of the marble floor upon a great 
folio volume, which had been removed from the conventual 
library, and applied to purposes of practical utility in the 
way which I have described. The traveller on examining 
these ponderous tomes found them to be of the greatest 
value ; one was in uncial letters, and others were full of 
illuminations of the earliest date ; all these he was allowed 


to carry away in exchange for some footstools or hassocks, 
which he presented in their stead to the old monks ; they 
were comfortably covered with ketche" or felt, and were 
in many respects more convenient to the inhabitants of the 
monastery than the manuscripts had been, for many of 
their antique bindings were ornamented with bosses and 
nail heads, which inconvenienced the toes of the unso- 
phisticated congregation who stood upon them without 
shoes for so many hours in the day. I must add that the 
lower halves of the manuscripts were imperfect, from the 
damp of the floor of the church having corroded and eat 
away their vellum leaves, and also that, as the story is not 
my own, I cannot vouch for the truth of it, though, whether 
it is true or not, it elucidates the present state of the 
literary attainments of the Oriental monks. Ignorance 
and superstition walk hand in hand, and the monks of the 
Eastern churches seem to retain in these days all the love 
for the marvellous which distinguished their Western 
brethren in the middle ages. Miraculous pictures abound, 
as well as holy springs and wells. Relics still perform 
wonderful cures. I will only as an illustration to this 
statement mention one of the standing objects of venera- 
tion which may be witnessed any day in the vicinity of 
the castle of the Seven Towers, outside of the walls of 
Constantinople : there a rich monastery stands in a lovely 
grove of trees, under whose shade numerous parties of 
merry Greeks often pass the day, dividing their time be- 
tween drinking, dancing, and devotion. 

The unfortunate Emperor Constantine Paleologus rode 
out of the city alone to reconnoitre the outposts of the 
Turkish army, which was encamped in the immediate 
vicinity. In passing through a wood he found an old man 
seated by the side of a spring cooking some fish on a grid- 
iron for his dinner ; the emperor dismounted from his white 
horse and entered into conversation with the other ; the old 


man looked up at the stranger in silence, when the empe- 
ror inquired whether he had heard anything of the move- 
ments of the Turkish forces — " Yes," said he, " they have 
this moment entered the city of Constantinople." " I 
would believe what you say," replied the emperor, " if 
the fish which you are broiling would jump off the gridiron 
into the spring." This, to his amazement, the fish imme- 
diately did, and, on his turning round, the figure of the old 
man had disappeared. The emperor mounted his horse 
and rode towards the gate of Silivria, where he was 
encountered by a band of the enemy and slain, after a 
brave resistance, by the hand of an Arab or a Negro. 

The broiled fishes still swim about in the water of the 
spring, the sides of which have been lined with white 
marble, in which are certain recesses where they can 
retire when they do not wish to receive company. The 
only way of turning the attention of these holy fish to the 
respectful presence of their adorers is accomplished by 
throwing something glittering into the water, such as a 
handful of gold or silver coin ; gold is the best, copper 
produces no effect ; he that sees one fish is lucky, he that 
sees two or three goes home a happy man ; but the cus- 
tom of throwing coins into the spring has become, from its 
constant practice, very troublesome -to the good monks, 
who kindly depute one of their community to rake out the 
money six or seven times a day with a scraper at the end 
of a long pole. The emperor of Russia has sent presents 
to the shrine of Baloukli, so called from the Turkish word 
Balouk, a fish. Some wicked heretics have said that these 
fishes are common perch ; either they or the monks must 
be mistaken, but of whatever kind they are, they are 
looked upon with reverence by the Greeks, and have been 
continually held in the highest honour from the time of the 
siege of Constantinople to the present day. 

1 have hitherto noticed those monasteries only which are 


under the spiritual jurisdiction of the Patriarch of Constan- 
tinople, but those of the Copts of Egypt and the Maronites 
of Syria resemble them in almost every particular. As it 
has never been the custom of the Oriental Christians to 
bury the dead within the precincts of the church, they none 
of them eontain sepulchral monuments. The bodies of 
the Byzantine emperors were enclosed in sarcophagi of 
precious marbles, which were usually deposited in chapels 
erected for the purpose — a custom which has been imitated 
by the sultans of Turkey. Of all these magnificent sar- 
cophagi and chapels or mausoleums where the remains of 
the imperial families were deposited, only one remains 
intact ; every one but this has been violated, destroyed, or 
carried away ; the ashes of the Caesars have been scat- 
tered to the winds. This is now known by the name of 
the chapel of St. Nazario e Celso, at Ravenna : it was 
built by Galla Placidia, the daughter of Theodosius ; she 
died at Rome in 440, but her body was removed to Ra- 
venna and deposited in a sarcophagus in this chapel ; in 
the same place are two other sarcophagi, one containing 
the remains of Constantius, the second husband of Galla 
Placidia, and the other holding the body of her son Valen- 
tinian III. These tombs have never been disturbed, and 
are the only ones which remain intact of the entire line of 
the Caesars, either of the Eastern or Western empires. 

The tombstones or monuments of the Armenians deserve 
to be mentioned on account of their singularity. They are 
usually oblong pieces of marble lying flat upon the ground ; 
on these are sculptured representations of the implements 
of the trade at which the deceased had worked during his 
lifetime ; some display the manner in which the Armenian 
met his death. In the Petit Champ des Morts at Pera, I 
counted, I think, five tombstones with bas-reliefs of men 
whose heads had been cut off. In Armenia the traveller 
is often startled by the appearance of a gigantic stone 


figure of a ram, far away from any present habitation : 
this is the4omb of some ancient possessor of flocks and herds 
whose house and village have disappeared, and nothing 
but his tomb remains to mark the site which once was 
the abode of men. 

The Armenian monasteries, with the exception of that 
of Etchmiazin and one or two others, are much smaller 
buildings than those of the Greeks ; they are constructed 
after the same model, however, being surrounded with a 
high blank wall. Their churches are seldom surmounted 
by a dome, but are usually in the form of a small barn, 
with a high pitched roof, built like the walls of large 
squared stones. At one end of the church is a small door, 
and at the other end a semicircular apsis ; the windows 
are small apertures like loopholes. These buildings, 
though of very small size, have an imposing appearance 
from their air of massive strength. The cells of the Arme- 
nian monks look into the courtyard, which is a remarkable 
fact in that country, where the rest of the inhabitants dwell 
in burrows underground like rabbits, and keep themselves 
alive during the long winters of their rigorous climate by 
the warmth proceeding from the cattle with whom they 
live, for fire is dear in a land too cold for trees to grow. 
The monasteries of the various sects of Christians who 
inhabit the mountains of Koordistaun are very numerous, 
and all more or less alike. Perched on the tops of crags, 
in these wild regions are to be seen the monastic fastnesses 
of the Chaldeans, who of late have been known by the 
name of Nestorians, the seat of whose patriarchate is at 
Julamerk. They have now been almost exterminated by 
Beder Khan Bey, a Koordish chief, in revenge for the cattle 
which they were alleged to have stolen from the Koordish 
villages in their vicinity. The Jacobites, the Sabseans, 
and the Christians of St. John, who inhabit the banks of 
the Euphrates in the districts of the ancient Susiana, all 


have fortified monasteries which are mostly of great anti- 
quity. From Mount Ararat to Bagdat, the different sects 
of Christians still retain the faith of the Redeemer, whom 
they "have worshipped according to their various forms, 
some of them for more than fifteen hundred years ; the 
plague, the famine, and the sword have passed over them 
and left them still unscathed, and there is little doubt but 
that they will maintain the position which they have held 
so long till the now not far distant period arrives when the 
conquered empire of the Greeks will again be brought 
under the dominion of a Christian emperor. 


EGYPT IN 1833. 


Navarino— The Wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian Fleets— 
Alexandria — An Arab Pilot — Intense Heat— Scene from the 
Hotel Windows — The Water-Carriers — A Procession— A Bridal 
Party — Violent mode of clearing the Road — Submissive Beha- 
viour of the People— Astonishing Number of Donkeys— Bedouin 
Arabs; their wild and savage appearance — Early Hours — Visit 
to the Pasha's Prime Minister, Boghos Bey ; hospitable reception 
— Kawasses and Chaoushes ; their functions and powers — The 
Tassakjis — The Minister's Audience Chamber — Walmaa ; anec- 
dote of his saving the life of Boghos Bey. 

It was towards the end of July, 1833, that I took a 
passage from Malta to Alexandria in a merchant- 
vessel called the Fariuna ; for in those days there were 
no steam-packets traversing every sea, with almost 
the same rapidity and accuracy as railway carriages 
on shore. We touched on our way at Navarino to sell 
some potatoes to the splendidly. dressed, and half-starved 
population of the Morea, numbers of whom we found 
lounging about in a temporary wooden bazaar, where 
there was nothing to sell. In various parts of the 
harbour the wrecks of the Turkish and Egyptian ships of 
war, stripped of their outward coverings, and looking 
like the gigantic skeletons of antediluvian animals, 
fare awful evidence of the destruction which had taken 



place not very long before in the battle between the 
Christian and Mahomedan fleets in this calm, land- 
locked harbour. 

On the 31st we found ourselves approaching the 
castle of Alexandria, and were soon hailed by some 
people in a curious-looking pilot-boat with a lateen 
sail. The pilot was an old man with a turban and a 
long grey beard, and sat cross-legged in the stern of 
his boa*. We looked at him with vast interest, as the 
first live specimen we had seen of an Arab sailor. He 
was just the sort of man that I imagine Sindbad the 
Sailor must have been. 

Having by his directions been steered safely into the 
harbour, w^e cast anchor not far from the shore, a naked, 
dusty plain, which the blazing sun seemed to dare any 
one to cross, on pain of being shrivelled up immediately. 
The intensity of the heat was tremendous : the tar melted 
in the seams of the deck : we could scarcely bear it even 
when we were under the awning. Malta was hot 
enough, but the temperature there was cool in com- 
parison to the fiery furnace in which we were at present 
grilling. However, there was no help for it ; so having 
got our luggage on shore, we sweltered through the 
streets to an inn called the Tre Anchore— the only hotel 
in Africa, I believe, in those days. It was a dismal 
little place, frequented by the captains of merchant- 
vessels, who, not being hot enough already, raised the 
temperature of their blood by drinking brandy-and-water, 
arrack, and other combustibles, in a dark, oven-like 
room below stairs. 


We took possession of all the rooms up stairs, of which 
the principal one was long and narrow, with two windows 
at the end, opening on to a covered balcony or verandah : 
this overlooked the principal street and the bazaar. Here 
my companion and I soon stationed ourselves and watched 
the novel and curious scene below ; and strange indeed 
to the eye of an European, when for the first time he 
enters an Oriental city, is all he sees around him. The 
picturesque dresses, the buildings, the palm-trees, the 
camels, the people of various nations, with their long 
beards, their arms, and turbans, all unite to form a 
picture which is indelibly fixed in the memory. 
Things which have since become perfectly familiar 
to us were then utterly incomprehensible, and we had no 
one to explain them to us, for the one waiter of the 
poor inn, who was darting about in his shirt-sleeves after 
the manner of all waiters, never extended his answers to 
our questions beyond " Si, Signore," so we got but little 
information from him ; however, we did not make use of 
our eyes the less for that. 

Among the first things we noticed, was the number of 
half-naked men who went running about, each with 
something like a dead pig under his arm, shouting out 
" Mother f mother !" * with a doleful voice. These 
were the sakis or water-carriers, with their goat-skins of 
the precious element, a bright brass cupfull of which they 
sell for a small coin to the thirsty passengers. An old 
man with a fan in his hand made of a palm-branch, who 
was crumpled up in the cbrnet. of a sort of booth among 
• Moyab-* water." 


a heap of dried figs, raisins, and dates, just opposite our 
window, was an object of much speculation to us how 
he got in, and how he would ever manage to get out of 
the niche into which he was so closely wedged. He 
was the merchant, as the Arabian Nights would call him, 
or the shopkeeper as we should say, who sat there 
cross-legged among his wares waiting patiently for a 
customer, and keeping off the flies in the meanwhile, as 
in due time we discovered that all merchants did in all 
countries of the East. Soon there cam* slowly by, a 
long procession of men on horseback, with golden 
bridles and velvet trappings, and women muffled up in 
black silk wrappers ; how they could bear them, hot as it 
was, astonished us. These ladies sat upon a pile, of 
cushions placed so high above the backs of the donkeys 
on which they rode that their feet rested on the animal's 
shoulders. Each donkey was led by one man, while 
another walked by its side with his hand upon the crup- 
per. With the ladies were two little boys covered with 
diamonds, mounted on huge fat horses, and ensconced in 
high-backed Mameluke saddles made of silver gilt. 
These boys, we afterwards found oul, were being con- 
ducted in state to a house of their relations, where 
the rite of circumcision was to be performed. Our 
attention was next ' called to something like a four-post 
bed, with pink gauze curtains, which advanced with 
dignified slowness, preceded by a band of musicians, who 
raised a dire and fearful discord by the aid of various 
windy engines. This was a canopy, the four poles of 
which were supported by men, who held it over the heads 


of a bride and her two bridesmaids or friends, who walked 
on each side of her. The bride was not veiled in . 
the usual way, as her friends were, but muffled up in 
Cashmere shawls from head to foot. Something there 
was on the top of her head which gleamed like gold 
or jewels, but the rest of her person was so effect* 
ually wrapped up and concealed that no one could 
tell whether she was pretty or ugly, fat or thin, old or 
young ; and although we gave her credit for all the 
charms which should adorn a bride, we rejoiced when 
the villanous band of music which accompanied her 
turned round a corner and went out of hearing. 

Some miserable-looking black slaves caught our atten- 
tion, clothed each in a piece of Isabel-coloured canvas and 
led by a well-dressed man, who had probably just bought 
them. Then a great personage came by on horseback 
with a number of mounted attendants and some men on 
foot, who cleared the way before him, and struck every- 
body on the head with their sticks who did not get out of 
the way fast enough. These blows were dealt all round 
in the most unceremonious manner ; but what appeared 
to us extraordinary was, that all these beaten people did 
not seem to care for being beat. They looked neither 
angry nor affronted, but only grinned and rubbed their 
shoulders, and moved on one side to let the train of the 
great man pass by. Now if this were done in London, 
what a ferment would it create I what speeches would be 
made about tyranny and oppression I what a capital thing 
some high-minded and independent patriot would make 
of it ! how he would call a meeting to defend the rights 


of the subject ! and how he would get his admirers to rote 
him a piece of plate for his noble and glorious exertions ! 
Here nobody minded the thing ; they took no heed of the 
indignity ; and I verily believe my friend and I, who 
were safe up at the window, were the only persons in the 
place who felt any annoyance. 

The prodigious multitude of donkeys formed another 
strange feature in the scene. There were hundreds of 
them, carrying all sorts of things in panniers ; and some 
of the smallest were ridden by men so tall that they were 
obliged to hold up their legs that their feet might not touch 
the ground. Donkeys, in short, are the carts of Egypt 
and the hackney-coaches of Alexandria. 

In addition to the donkeys long strings of ungainly- 
looking camels were continually passing, generally pre- 
ceded by a donkey, and accompanied by swarthy men 
clad in a short shirt with a red and yellow handkerchief 
tied in a peculiar way over their heads, and wearing 
sandals ;. these savage-looking people were Bedouins, or 
Arabs of the desert. A very truculent set they seemed 
to be, and all of them were armed with a long crooked 
knife and a pistol or two stuck in a red leathern girdle. 
They were thin, gaunt, and dirty, and strode along looking 
fierce and independent. There was something very strik- 
ing in the appearance of these untamed Arabs : I had never 
pictured to myself that anything so like a wild beast could 
exist in human form. The motions of their half-naked 
bodies were singularly free and light, and they looked as 
if they could climb, and run, and leap over anything. 
The appearance of many of the older Arabs, with their 


long white beard and their ample cloak of camel's hair, 
called an abba, is majestic and venerable. It was the 
first time that I had seen these " Children of the Desert," 
and the quickness of their eyes, their apparent freedom 
from all restraint, and their disregard of any conventional 
manners, struck me forcibly. An English gentleman in 
a round hat and a tight neck-handkerchief and boots, with 
white gloves and a little cane in his hand, was a style of 
man so utterly and entirely unlike a Bedouin Arab that I 
• could hardly conceive the possibility of their being only 
different species of the same animal. 

After we had dined, being tired with the heat and the 
trouble we had had in getting our luggage out of the ship, I 
resolved to retype to bed at an early hour, and on going to the 
window to have another look at the crowd, I was surprised 
to find that there was scarcely anybody left in the streets, 
for these primitive people all go to bed when it gets dark, 
as the birds do ; and except a few persons walking home 
with paper lanterns in their hands, the place seemed 
almost entirely deserted. 

The next morning, mounted on donkeys, we shambled 
across half the city to the residence of Boghos Bey, the 
Armenian prime minister of Mohammed Ali Pasha ; we 
were received with great kindness and civility, and as at 
this time there had been but very few European travellers 
in Egypt, we were treated with distinguished hospitality. 
The Bey said that although the Pasha was then in Upper 
Egypt, he would take care that we should have every 
facility in seeing all the objects of interest, and that he 
would write to Habeeb EfFendi, the Governor of Cairo, to 


acquaint him of our arrival, and direct him to let us have 
the use of the Pasha's horses, that kawasses should attend 
us, and that the Pasha would give us a firman, which 
would ensure our being well treated throughout the whole 
of his dominions. 

As a kawass is a person mentioned by all Oriental 
travellers, it may be as well to state that he is a sort of 
armed servant or body-guard belonging to the govern- 
ment ; he bears as his badge of office a thick cane about 
four feet long, with a large silver head, with which 
instrument he occasionally enforces his commands and 
supports his authority as well as his person. Ambassa- 
dors, consuls, and occasionally travellers, are attended by 
kawasses. Their presence shows that the person they 
accompany is protected by the State, and their number 
indicates his dignity and rank. Formerly these kawasses 
were splendidly attired in embroidered dresses, and their 
arms and the accoutrements of their horses were of silver 
gilt : the ambassador at Constantinople has, I think, six of 
these attendants. Of late years their picturesque costume 
has been changed to a uniform frock-coat of European 
make, of a whity-brown colour. 

There is a higher grade of officer of the same descrip- 
tion, who is only to be met with at 
Court, and whose functions are nearly 
the same as those of a chamberlain with 
us. He is called a chaoush. His 
official staff is surmounted by a silver 
head, formed like a Greek bishop's 
Staff, from the two horns of which seve- 

Chap. I. BOGHOS BET. 9 

ral little round bells are suspended by a silver chain* 
The chaoush is a personage of great authority in certain 
things ; he is a kind of living firman, before whom every 
one makes way. As I was desirous of seeing the shrine 
of the heads of Hassan and Hussein in the mosque of 
Hassan En, a place of peculiar sanctity at Cairo, into 
which no Christian had been admitted, the Pasha sent a 
chaoush with me, who concealed the head of his staff in 
his clothes, to be ready, in case it had been discovered 
that I was not a Mahomedan, to protect me fro n tho 
fury of the devotees, who would probably have torn to 
pieces any unbeliever who intruded into the temple of the 
sons of Ali. 

Besides these two officers, the chaoush and kawass, 
there is another attendant upon public men, who is of 
inferior rank, and is called a yassakji, or forbidder ; he 
looks like a dirty kawass, and has a stick, but without the 
silver knob. He is generally employed to carry mes- 
sages, and push people out of the way, to make a passage 
for you through a crowd ; but this kind of functionary is 
more frequently seen at Constantinople and the northern 
parts of Turkey than in Egypt. 

We found Boghos Bey in a large upper room, seated on 
a divan with two or three persons to whom he was speak- 
ing, while the lower end of the room was occupied by a 
crowd of chaoushes, kawasses, and hangers-on of all 
descriptions. We were served with coffee, pipes, and 
sherbet, and were entertained during the pauses of the 
conversation by the ticking and chiming of half a dozen 
clocks- which stood about the room, some on the floor, 



some on the side-tables, and some stuck on brackets 
against the wall. 

One of the persons seated near the prime minister was 
a shrewd-looking man with one eye, of whom I was 
afterwards told the following anecdote. His name was 
Walmas ; he had been an Armenian merchant, and was 
an old acquaintance of Mohammed Ali and of Boghos, 
before they had either of them risen to their present 
importance. Soon after the massacre of the Mamelukes, 
Mohammed Ali desired Boghos to procure him a large 
sum of money by a certain day, which Boghos declared 
was impossible at so short a notice. The Pasha, angry 
at being thwarted, swore that if he had not the money 
by the day he had named, he would have Boghos drown- 
ed in the Nile. The affrighted minister made every 
effort to collect the requisite sum, but when the day- 
arrived much was wanting, to complete it. Boghos stood 
before the Pasha, who immediately exclaimed, " Well ! 
where is the money ?" " Sir," replied Boghos, " I have 
not been able to get it all ! I have procured all this, but, 
though I strained every nerve, and took every measure 
in my power, it was impossible to obtain the remainder." 
" What," exclaimed the Pasha, " you dog, have you not 
obeyed my commands ? What is the use of a minister 
who cannot produce all the money wanted by his sove- 
reign, at however short a notice ? Here, put this unbe- 
liever in a sack, and fling him into the Nile." This 
scene occurred in the citadel at Cairo ; and an officer and 
some men immediately put him into a sack, threw it 
across a donkey, and proceeded to the Nile. As they 


were passing through the city, they were met by Wal- 
mas, who Was attended by several servants, and who, 
seeing something moving in the sack which was laid 
across the donkey, asked the guards what they had got 
there. . " Oh !" said the officer, " we have got Boghos, 
the Armenian, and we are going to throw him into the 
Nile, by his Highness the Pasha's order. " "What has 
he done?" asked Walmas. "What do we know?" 
replied the officer ; " something about money, I believe : 
no great thing, but his Highness has been in a bad 
humour lately. He will be sorry for it afterwards. 
However, we have our orders, and, therefore, please God, 
we are going to pitch him into the Nile." Walmas 
determined to rescue his old friend, and, assisted by his 
servants, immediately attacked the guard, who made little 
more than a show of resistance. Boghos was carried off, 
and concealed in a safe place, and the guards returned to 
the citadel and reported that they had pitched Boghos into 
the Nile, where he had sunk, as all should do who dis- 
obeyed the commands of his Highness. Some time after- 
wards, the Pasha, overcome by financial difficulties, was 
heard to say that he wished Boghos was still alive. 
Walmas, who was present, after some preliminary con- 
versation (for the ground was rather dangerous), said that 
if his own pardon was insured, he could mention some- 
thing respecting Boghos which he was sure would be 
agreeable to his Highness : and at last he owned that he 
had rescued him from the guards and had kept him con- 
cealed in his house in hopes of being allowed to restore so 
valuable a servant to his master. The Pasha was de* 


lighted at the news, instantly reinstated Boghos in all his 
former honours, and Walmas himself stood higher than 
ever in his favour; but the guards were executed for 
disobedience. Ever since that time Boghos Bey has con- 
tinued to be the principal minister and most confidential 
adviser of Mohammed Ali Pasha. 



Rapacity of the Dragomans — The Mahmoudieh Canal— The Nile 
at Atfeh— The muddy Waters of the Nile— Richness of the Soil 
— Accident to the Boatmen — Night Sailing— A Collision— A 
Vessel run down— Escape of the Crew — Solemn Investigation- 
Final Judgment— Curious Mode of Fishing — Tameness of the 
Birds— Jewish Malefactors— Moving Pillar of Sand— Arrival at 
Cairo— Hospitable Reception by the Consul-General. 

So long as there were no hotels in Egypt, the process of 
fleecing the unwary traveller was conducted on different 
principles from those followed in Europe. As he seldom 
understands the language, he requires an interpreter or 
dragoman, who, as a matter of course, manages all his 
pecuniary affairs. The newly-arrived European eats 
and drinks whatever his dragoman chooses to give him ; 
sees through his dragoman's eyes ; hears through his ears ; 
and, although he thinks himself master, is, in fact, only a 
part of the property of this Eastern servant, to be used by 
him as he thinks fit, and turned to the best account like 
any other real or personal estate. 

On our landing at Alexandria, my friend and I found 
ourselves in the same predicament as our predecessors, 
and straightway fell into the hands of these Philistines, 
two of whom we hired as interpreters. They were also 
to act as ciceroni, and were warranted to know all about 
the antiquities, and everything else in Egypt ; they were 
to buy everything we wanted, to spend our money, and to 
allow no one to cheat us except themselves. One of 
these worthies was sent to engage a boat, to carry us 


aown the Mahmoudieh Canal to Atfeh, where the canal 
is separated from the river by flood-gates, in consequence 
of which impediment we could not proceed in the same 
boat, but had to hire a larger one to take us on to Cairo. 

The banks of the canal being high, we had no view of 
the country as we passed along ; but on various occasions 
when I ascended to the top of the bank, while the men 
who towed the boat rested from their labours, I saw no- 
thing but great sandy flats interspersed with large pools 
of stagnant, muddy water. This prospect not being very 
charming, we were glad to arrive the next day on the 
shores of the Father of Rivers, whose swollen stream, 
although at Atfeh not more than half a mile in width, 
rolled by towards the north in eddies and whirlpools of 
smooth muddy water, in colour closely resembling a sea 
of mutton broth. 

In my enthusiasm on arriving on the margin of this 
venerable river, I knelt down to drink some of it, and was 
disappointed in finding it by no means so good as I had 
always been told it was. On complaining of its muddy 
taste, I found that no one drank the water of the Nile till 
it had stood a day or two in a large earthen jar, the inside 
of which is rubbed with a paste of bitter almonds. This 
causes all impurities to be precipitated, and the water, thus 
treated, becomes the lightest, clearest, and most excellent 
in the world. At Atfeh, after a prodigious uproar between 
the men of our two boats, each set claiming to be paid for 
transporting the luggage, we set sail upon the Nile, and 
after proceeding a short distance, we stopped at a village, 
or small town, to buy some fruit. Here the surrounding 


country, a flat alluvial plain, was richly cultivated* 
Water-melons, corn, and all manner of green herbs flou- 
rished luxuriantly ; everything looked delightfully fresh 
and green ; flocks of pigeons were flying about ; and 
multitudes of white spoonbills and other strange birds 
were stalking among the herbage, and rising around us 
in every direction. The fertility of the land appeared 
prodigious, and exceeded anything I had seen before. 
Numberless boats were passing on the river, and the 
general aspect of the scene betokened the wealth and 
plenty which would reward the toils of the agriculturist 
under any settled form of government. We returned to 
our boat loaded with fruit, among which were the Egyp 
tian fig, the prickly pear, dates, limes, and melons of kinds 
that were new to us. 

Whilst we were discussing the merits of these refreshing 
productions, a board, which had been fastened on the out- 
side of the vessel for four or five men to stand on, as they 
pushed the boat with poles through the shallow water, sud- 
denly gave way, and the men fell into the river : they 
could, however, all swim like water-rats, and were soon 
on board again ; when, putting out into the middle of the 
stream, we set two huge triangular lateen sails on our low 
masts, which raked forwards instead of backwards, and 
by the help of the wind made our way slowly towards the 
jouth. We slept in a small cabin in the stern of the 
vessel ; this had a flat top, and formed the resting-place 
of the steersman, the captain of the ship, and our servants, 
who all lay down together on some carpets ; the sailors 
slept on the deck. We sailed on steadily all night ; the stars 

16 A COLLISION. Chap. II. 

were wonderfully bright; and I looked out upon the 
broad river and the flat silent shores, diversified here and 
there by a black-looking village of mud huts, surrounded 
by a grove of palms, whence the distant baying of the 
dogs was brought down upon the wind. Sometimes there 
was the cry of a wild bird, but soon again the only sound 
was the gentle ripple of the water, against the sides of our 
boat. If the steersman was not asleep, every one else 
was ; but still we glided on, and nothing occurred to dis- 
turb our repose, till the blazing light of the morning sun 
recalled us to activity, and all the bustling preparations 
for breakfast. 

We had sailed on for some time after this important 
event, and I was quietly reading in the shade of the cabin, 
when I was thrown backwards by the sudden stopping of 
the vessel, which struck against something with prodigious 
force, and screams of distress arose from the water all 
around us. On rushing upon deck I found that we had 
run down another boat, which had sunk so instantly that 
nothing was to be seen of it except the top of the mast, 
whose red flag was fluttering just above water, and to 
which two women were clinging. A few yards astern 
seven or eight men were swimming towards the shore, and 
our steersman having in his alarm left the rudder to its 
own devices, our great sails were swinging and flapping 
over our heads. There was a cry that our bows were 
stove in, and we were sinking ; but, fortunately, before 
this could happen, the stream had carried us ashore, where 
we stuck in the mud on a shoal under a high bank, up 
which we all soon scrambled, glad to be on terra firma. 


The country people came running down to satisfy their 
curiosity, and we procured a small boat, which imme- 
diately rowed off to rescue the women who were still cling- 
ing to the mast-head of the sunken vessel, which was one 
of the kind called a djerm, and was laden with thirty tons 
of corn, besides other goods. No one, luckily, was 
drowned, though the loss was a serious one to the owners, 
for there was no chance of recovering either the vessel or 
the cargo. Whilst we were looking, the red flag to which 
the women had been clinging toppled over sideways, which 
completed the entire disappearance of the unfortunate 

Our reis, or captain, now returned to the roof of 
the cabin, where he sat down upon a mat, and lighting 
his pipe, smoked away steadily without saying a word, 
while the wet and dripping sailors, as well as the ladies 
belonging to the shipwrecked vessel, surrounded him, 
screaming, vociferating, and shouting all manner of in- 
vectives into his ears ; in which employment they were 
effectively joined by a number of half-naked Arabs who 
had been 'cultivating the fields hard by. To all this 
they got no answer, beyond an occasional ejaculation 
of " God is great, and Mohammed is the prophet of 
God." His pipe was out before the clamour of the 
crowd had abated, and then, all of a sudden, he got 
up and with two or three others embarked in the little 
boat for a neighbouring village, to report the accident 
to the sheick, who, we were told, would return with 
him and inquire into the circumstances of the case. 

In about three hours the boat returned with the 


local authorities, two old villagers, in long blue shirts 
and dirty turbans, who took their seat upon a mat on 
the bank and smoked away in a serious manner for 
some time. Our captain made no more reply to the 
fresh accusations of the reassembled multitude than 
he had done before; but lit another pipe, and asserted 
that God was great. At last the two elders made 
signs that they intended to speak ; and silence being 
obtained, they, with all due solemnity, declared that 
they agreed with the captain that God was great, and 
that undoubtedly Mohammed was the prophet of God. 
All parties having come to this conclusion, it appeared 
that there was nothing more to be said, and we re- 
turned to our boat, which the sailors, with the help of 
a rough carpenter, had patched up sufficiently to allow 
us to sail for a village on the other side of the river. 

During the time that we were remaining on the 
bank I was amused by watching the manoeuvres of 
some boys, who succeeded in catching a quantity of 
small fish in a very original way. They rolled together 
a great quantity of tangled weeds and long grass, with 
one end of which they swam out into the Nile, and 
bringing it back towards the shore, numerous unsus- 
pecting fish were entangled in the mass of weeds, and 
were picked out and thrown on the bank by the young 
fishermen before they had time to get out of the scrape. 
In this way the boys secured a very respectable heap 
of small fry. 

We arrived safely at the village, where we stayed 
the night; but the next morning it appeared that the 


bows of our vessel were so much damaged that she 
could not be repaired under a delay of some days. 
Indeed, it appeared that we had been fortunate in 
accomplishing our passage across the river, for if we 
had foundered midway, not being able to swim like 
the amphibious Egyptians, we should probably have 
been drowned. It was, however, a relief to me to 
think that there were no crocodiles in this part of the 

The birds at this place appeared to be remarkably 
tame; some gulls, or waterfowl, hardly troubled them- 
selves to move out of the way when a boat passed 
them; while those in the fields went on searching 
among the crops for insects close to the labourers, and 
without any of the alarm shown by birds in England. 

While we were dawdling about in the neighbour- 
hood of the village, one of the servants, an old Maltese, 
discovered a boat with ten or twelve oars, lying in 
the vicinity. It belonged to the government, and was 
conveying two malefactors to .Cairo under the guar- 
dianship of a kawass, who on learning our mishap 
gave us a passage in his boat, and to our great joy we 
bid adieu to our silent captain, and were soon rowing 
at a great rate, in a fine new canjah, on the way to 
Cairo. The two prisoners on board were Jews : one 
was taken up for cheating, and the other for using 
false weights. They were fastened together by the 
neck, with a chain about five feet long. One of the 
two was very restless ; they said he had a good chance 
of being hanged ; and he was always pulling the other 



unfortunate Hebrew about with him by the chain, in a 
manner which excited the mirth of the soldiers, though 
it must have been anything but amusing to the person 
most concerned. 

The next day there was a hot wind, and the ther- 
mometer stood at 98° in the shade. The kawass called 
our attention to a pillar of sand moving through the 
air in the desert to the south-east; it had an extra- 
ordinary appearance, and its effect upon a party tra- 
velling over those burning plains would have been terrific. 
It was evidently caused by a whirlwind, and men and 
camels are sometimes suffocated and overwhelmed 
when they are met by these columns of dry, heated 
sand, which stalk through the desert like the evil genii 
of the storm. I have seen them in other countries, more 
particularly in Armenia; but this, which I saw on my 
first journey up the Nile, was the only moving pillar 
which I met with in Egypt or in any of the surrounding 
deserts. We passed two men fishing from a small 
triangular raft, composed of palm-branches fastened on 
the tops of a number of earthen vases. This raft had 
a remarkably light appearance ; it seemed only just 
to touch the surface of the water, but was evidently 
badly calculated for such rude encounters as the one 
which we had lately experienced. Soon afterwards the 
tops of the great Pyramids of Giseh caught our admiring 
gaze, and in the morning of the 12th of August we 
landed at Boulac, from which a ride of half an hour 
on donkeys brought our party to the hospitable mansion 
of the Consul-General, who was good enough to receive 


us in his house until we eould procure quarters for 

Having arrived at Cairo, a short account of the history 
of the city may be interesting to some readers. In the 
sixth and seventh centuries of our era this part of Egypt 
was inhabited principally by Coptic Christians, whose 
chief occupation cons sted in quarrelling among themselves 
on polemical points of divinity and ascetic rule. The de- 
serts of Nitria and the shores of the Red Sea were peopled 
with swarms of monks, some living together in monaste- 
ries, some in lavras, or monastic villages, and multitudes 
hiding their sanctity in dens and caves, where they passed 
their lives in abstract meditation. In the year 638 the 
Arabian general Amer ebn el As, with four hundred 
Arabs (see Wilkinson), advanced to the confines of Egypt, 
and after thirty days' siege took possession of Pelusiura, 
which had been the barrier of the country on the Syrian 
side from the earliest periods of the Egyptian monarchy : 
he advanced without opposition to the city of Babylon, 
which occupied the site of Masr el Ateekeh, or Old Cairo, 
on the Nile ; but the Roman station, which is now a Coptic 
monastery, containing a chamber said to have been occu- 
pied by the blessed Virgin, was so strong a fortress that 
the invaders were unable to effect an entrance in a siege 
of seven months. After this a reinforcement of four hun- 
dred men arriving at their camp, their courage revived, 
and the castle of Babylon was taken by escalade. On the 
site of the Arabian encampment at Fostat, Amer founded 
the first mosque built on Egyptian soil. The town of 
Babylon was connected with the island of Rhoda by a 


bridge of boats, by which a communication was kept up 
with the city of Memphis, on the other side of the Nile. 
The Copts, whose religious fanaticism occasioned them to 
hate their masters, the Greeks of the Eastern Empire, 
more than the Mahomed ans, welcomed the moment which 
promised to free them from their religious adversaries; 
and the traitor John Mecaukes, governor of Memphis, per- 
suaded them to conclude a treaty with the invaders, by 
which it was stipulated that two dinars of gold should be 
paid for every Christian above sixteen years of age, with 
the exception of old men, women, and monks. From this 
time Fostat became the Arabian capital of Egypt. In the 
year 879 Sultan Tayloon, or Tooloon, built himself a 
palace, to which he added several residences or barracks 
for his guards, and the great mosque, which still exists, 
with pointed arches, between Fostat and the present citadel 
of Cairo. It was not, however, till the year 969 that 
Goher, the general of El Moez, Sultan of Kairoan, near 
Tunis, having invaded Egypt, and completely subdued the 
country, founded a new city near the citadel of Qattaeea, 
which acquired the name of El Kahira from the following 
circumstance. The architect having made his arrange- 
ments for laying the first stone of the new wall, waited 
for the fortunate moment, which was to be shown by the 
astrologers pulling a cord, extending to a considerable dis- 
tance from the spot. A certain crow, however, who had 
not been taken into the council of the wise men, perched 
upon the cord, which was shaken by his weight, and the 
architect supposing that the appointed signal had been 
given, commenced his work accordingly. From this un- 


lucky omen, and the vexation felt by those concerned, the 
epithet of Kahira (" the vexatious " or " unlucky ") was 
added to the name of the city, Masr el Kahira meaning 
"the unlucky (city of ) Egypt." Kahira in the Italian 
pronunciation has been softened into Cairo, by which name 
this famous city has been known for many centuries in 
Europe, though in the East it is usually called Masr only. 
From this time the Fatemite caliphs of Africa, who brought 
the bones of their ancestors with them from Kairoan, 
reigned for ten generations over the land of Egypt. The 
third in this succession was the Caliph Hakem, who built 
a mosque near the Bab el Nassr, and who was the founder 
of the sect of the Druses, and, as some say, of the Assas- 
sins. In the year 1171 the famous Saladin usurped the 
throne from the last of the race of Fatema. His descend- 
ant, Moosa el Ashref, was deposed in his turn, in 1250 ; 
from which time till the year 1543 Cairo was governed 
by the curious succession of Mameluke kings, who were 
mostly Circassian slaves brought up at the court of their 
predecessors, and arriving at the supreme rule of Egypt 
by election or intrigue. Toman Bey, the last of the Ma- 
meluke kings, was defeated by Selim, Emperor of the 
Turks, and hanged at Cairo, at the Bab Zooaley. But 
the aristocracy of the Mamelukes, as it may be called, still 
remained ; and various beys became governors of Egypt 
under the Turkish sway, till they were all destroyed at 
one blow by Mohammed Ali Pasha, the now all but inde- 
pendent sovereign of Egypt. 



National Topics of Conversation— The Rising of the Nile ; evil 
effects of its rising too high ; still worse consequences of a 
deficiency of its waters — The Nilometer — Universal Alarm in 
August, 1833 — The Nile at length rises to the desired Height — 
Ceremony of cutting the Embankment — The Canal of the 
Khalidj — Immense Assemblage of People — The State Tent — 
Arrival of Habeeb Effendi — Splendid Dresses of the Officers— 
Exertions of the Arab Workmen — Their Scramble for Paras — 
Admission of the Water— Its sudden Irruption — Excitement of 
the Ladies — Picturesque Effect of large Assemblies in the East 

In England every one talks about the weather, and all 
conversation is opened by exclamations against the heat 
or the cold, the rain or the drought ; but in Egypt, during 
one part of the year at least, the rise of the Nile forms 
the general topic of conversation. Sometimes the ascent 
of the water is unusually rapid, and then nothing is 
talked of but inundations ; for if the river overflows 
too much, whole villages are washed away ; and as they 
are for the most part built of sunburned bricks and mud, 
they are completely annihilated; and when the waters 
subside, all the boundary marks are obliterated, the 
course of canals is altered, and mounds and embank- 
ments are washed away. On these occasions the smaller 
landholders have great difficulty in recovering their 
property; for few of them know how far their fields 
extend in one direction or the other, unless a tree, 
a stone, or something else remains to mark the 
separation of one man's flat piece of mud from that ot 
his neighbour. 


But the more frequent and the far more dreaded 
calamity is the deficiency of water. This was the case 
in 1833, and we heard nothing else talked of. "Has 
it risen much to-day?" inquires one. — "Yes, it has 
risen half a pic since the morning." " What ! no 
more ? In the name of the Prophet ! what will become 
sf the cotton ?" — " Yes ; and the doura will be burnt 
up to a certainty if we do not get four pics more." 
In short, the Nile has it all its own way ; everything 
depends on the manner in whieh it chooses to behave, 
and £1 Bahar (the river) is in everybody's mouth from 
morning till night. Criers go about the city several 
nes a day during the period of the rising, who pro- 
aim the exact height to which the water has arrived, 
the precise number of pics which are submerged on 
j»e Nilometer. 

This Nilometer is an ancient octagon pillar of red 
stone in the island of Rhoda, on (he sides of which 
graduated scales are elgraved. It stands in the 
centre of a cistern, about twenty-fivo feet square, and 
more than that in deptJ. A stone staircase leads 
down to the bottom, and the side walls are ornamented 
with Cufic inscriptions beautifully cut. Of this antique 
column I have seen more than most people ; for on the 
28th of August, 1833, the water was so low that there 
was the greatest apprehension of a total failure of the 
crops, and of the consequent famine. At that time 
nine feet more water was wanted to ensure an average 
crop; much of the Indian corn had already failed; 



and from the Pasha in his palace to the poorest fellah 
in his mud hovel, all were in consternation ; for in this 
country, where it never rains, everything depends on 
irrigation, — the revenues of the state, the food of the 
country, and the life or death of the bulk of the 

At length the Nile rose to the desired height ; and 
the 6th of September was fixed for the ceremony of 
cutting the embankment which keeps back the water 
from entering into the canal of the Ehalidj. This 
canal joins the Nile near the great tower which forms 
the end of the aqueduct built by Saladin, and through 
it the water is conveyed for the irrigation of Cairo and 
its vicinity. One peculiarity of this city is, that several 
of its principal squares or open spaces are flooded 
during the inundation ; and, in consequence of this, 
are called lakes, such as Birket el Fil (the lake of the 
Elephant), Birket el Esbekieh, &c. Many of the prin- 
cipal houses are built upon the banks of the Khalidj 
canal, which passes thorough the centre of the town, 
and which now had the appearance of a dusty, sunken 
lane ; and the annual admission of the water into its 
thirsty bed is an event looked forward to as a public 
holiday by all classes. Accordingly, early in the 
morning, men, women, and children sallied forth to the 
borders of the Nile, and it seemed as if no one would 
be left in the city. The worthy citizens of Cairo, on 
horses, mules, donkeys, and on foot, were seen stream- 
ing out of the gates, and making their way in the cool 
•f the morning, all hoping to obtain places from whence 


they might catch a glimpse of the cutting of the em* 

We mounted the horses which the Pasha's grooms 
brought to our door. They were splendidly cape- 
risoned with red velvet and gold ; horses were also sup. 
plied for all our servants; and we wended our way 
through happy and excited crowds to a magnificent tent 
which had been erected for the accommodation of the 
grandees, on a sort of ancient stone quay immediately 
over the embankment. We passed through the lines of 
soldiers who kept the ground in the vicinity of the tent, 
around which was standing a numerous party of officers 
in their gala uniforms of red and gold. 

On entering the tent we found the Cadi ; the son of 
the sheriff of Mecca, who I believe was kept as a sort 
of hostage for the good behaviour of his father, the 
Defterdar, or treasurer, and several other high per- 
sonages, seated on two carpets, one on each side of a 
splendid velvet divan, which extended along that side of 
the tent which was nearest to the river, and which was 
open. Below the tent was the bank which was to be 
cut through, with the water of the Nile almost over- 
flowing its brink on the one side, and the deep dry bed 
of the canal upon the other ; a number of half-naked 
Arabs were working with spades and pickaxes to under- 
mine this bank. 

Coffee and sherbet were presented to us while we 
awaited the arrival of Habeeb Effendi, who was to super- 
intend the ceremony in the absence of the Pasha. No 
one sat upon the divan which was reserved for the accom- 


modation of the great man, who was vice- viceroy on this 
occasion. I sat on the carpet by the son of the sheriff of 
Mecca, who was dressed in the green robes worn by the 
descendants of the Prophet. We looked at each other 
with some curiosity, and he carefully gathered up the 
edge of his sleeve, that it might not be polluted by the 
touch of such a heathen dog as he considered me to be. 

About 9 a.m. the firing of cannon and volleys of 
musketry, with the discordant noise of several military 
bands, announced the approach of Habeeb Effendi. He 
was preceded by an immense procession of beys, colonels, 
and officers, all in red and gold, with the diamond insignia 
of their rank displayed upon their breasts. This crowd 
of splendidly dressed persons, dismounting from their 
horses, filled the space around the tent ; and, opening into 
two ranks, they made a lane along which Habeeb Effendi 
rode into the middle of the tent; all bowing low and 
touching their foreheads as he passed. A horseblock, 
covered with red cloth, was brought forward for him to 
dismount upon. His fat grey horse was covered with 
gold, the whole of the housings of the Wahabee saddle 
being not embroidered, but so entirely covered with orna- 
ments in goldsmith's work, that the colour of the velvet 
beneath could scarcely be discerned. The great man 
was held up under each arm by two officers, who assisted 
him to the divan, upon which he took his seat, or rather 
subsided, for the portly proportions of his person prevent- 
ed his feet appearing as he sat cross-legged upon the 
cushions, with his back to the canal. Coffee was pre- 
vented to him, and a diamond-mounted pipe stuck into his 


mouth ; and he puffed away steadily, looking neither right 
nor left, while the uproar of the surrounding crowd in- 
creased every moment. Quantities of rockets and' other 
fireworks were now let off in the broad daylight, cannons 
fired, and yolleys of musketry filled the air with smoke. 
The naked Arabs in the ditch worked like madmen, tear, 
ing away the earth of the embankment, which was rapidly 
giving way ; whilst an officer of the Treasury threw 
handfuls of new pieces of five paras each (little coins of 
base silver of the value of a farthing) among them. The 
immense multitude shouted and swayed about, encourag- 
ing the men, who were excited almost to frenzy. 

At last there was a tremendous shout : the bank was 
beginning to give way ; and showers of coin were thrown 
down upon it, which the workmen tried to catch. One 
man took off his wide Turkish trousers, and stretching 
them out upon two sticks caught almost a handful at a 
time. By degrees the earth of the embankment became 
wet, and large pieces of mud fell over into the canal. 
Presently a little stream of water made its way down the 
declivity, but the Arabs still worked up to their knees in 
water. The muddy stream increased, and all of a sudden 
the whole bank gave way. Some of the Arabs scram- 
bled out and were helped up the sides of the canal by 
the crowd ; but several, and among others he of the trou- 
sers, intent upon the shower of paras, were carried away 
by the stream. The man struggled manfully in the 
water, and gallantly kept possession of his trousers till he 
was washed ashore, and, with the assistance of some of 
his friends, landed safely with his spoils. The arches of 


the great aqueduct of Saladin were occupied by parties 
of ladies ; and long lines of women in their black veils 
sat like a huge flock of crows upon the parapets above. 
They all waved their handkerchiefs and lifted up their 
voices in a strange shrill scream as the torrent increased 
in force ; and soon, carrying everything before it, it en- 
tirely washed away the embankment, and the water in the 
canal rose to the level of the Nile. 

The desired object having been accomplished, Habeeb 
Effendi, who had not once looked round towards the canal, 
now rose to depart ; he was helped up the steps of the red 
horse-block, and fairly hoisted into his saddle ; and amidst 
the roar of cannon and musketry, the shouts of the peo- 
ple, and the clang of innumerable musical instruments, 
he departed with his splendid train of officers and attend- 

Nothing can be conceived more striking than a great 
assemblage of people in the East : the various colours of 
the dresses and the number of white turbans give it a 
totally different appearance from that of a black and dingy 
European crowd ; and it has been well compared by their 
poets to a garden of tulips. The numbers collected to- 
gether on this occasion were immense ; and the narrow 
streets were completely filled by the returning multitude, 
all delighted with the happy termination of the event of 
the day ; but before noon the whole of the crowd was dis- 
persed, all had returned to their own houses, and the city 
was as quiet and orderly as if nothing extraordinary had 
occurred. • 



Early Hours in the Levant—Compulsory Use of Lanterns in Cairo 
— Separation of the different Quarter* of the Citj — Custom of 
sleeping in the open air — The Mahomedan Times of Prayer — 
Impressire Effect of the Morning Call to Prayer from the Mina- 
rets—The last Prayer-time, Al Assr— Bedouin Mode of ascertain- 
ing this Hour — Ancient Form of the Mosques — The Mosque of 
Sultan Hassan — Egyptian Mode of •« raising the Supplies" — 
Sultan Hassan's Mosque the scene of frequent Conflicts— The 
Slaughter of the Mameluke Beys in the place of Roumayli — 
Escape of one Mameluke, and his subsequent Friendship with Mo- 
hammed Ali— The Talisman of Cairo— Joseph's Well and Hall- 
Mohammed All's Mosque — his Residence in the Citadel — The 
Harem — Degraded State of the Women of the East. 

The early hours kept in the Levant cannot fail to strike 
the European stranger. At Cairo every one is up and 
about at sunrise ; all business is transacted in the morning, 
and some of the bezesteins and .principal bazaars are 
closed at twelve o'clock, at which hour many people retire 
to their homes and only appear again in the cool of the 
evening, when they take a ride or sit and smoke a pipe 
and listen to a story-teller in a coffee-house or under a 
tree. Soon after sunset the whole city is at rest Every 
one who then has any business abroad is obliged to carry 
a small paper lantern, on pain of being taken up by the 
guard if he is found without it. Persons of middle rank 
have a glass lamp carried before them by a servant, and 
people of consequence are preceded by men who run 
before their train of horses with a fire of resinous wood, 
carried aloft on the top of a pole, in an iron grating called 


a mashlak. This has a picturesque effect, and throws a 
great light around. 

Each different district of the city is separated fiom the 
adjoining one by strong gates at the end of the streets : 
these are all closed at night, and are guarded by a drowsy 
old man with a long beard, who acts as porter, and who is 
roused with difficulty by the promise of a small coin when 
any one wants to pass. These gates contribute greatly 
to the peace and security of the town ; for as the Turks, 
Arabs, Christians, Jews, Copts, and other religious sects 
reside each in a different quarter, any disturbance w/hich 
may arise in one district is prevented from extending to 
another ; and the drunken Europeans cannot intrude their 
civilization on their quiet and barbarous neighbours. 
There are here no theatres, balls, parties, or other noc- 
turnal assemblies; and before the hour at which London 
is well lit up, the gentleman of Cairo ascends to the top 
of his house and sleeps upon the terrace, and the servants 
retire to the court-yard ; for in the hot weather most people 
sleep in the open air. Many of the poorer class sleep in 
the open places and the courts of the mosques, all wrap* 
ping up their heads and faces that the moon may not shine 
upon them. 

The Mahomedan day begins at sunset, when the first 
time of prayer is observed ; the second is about two hours 
after sunset ; the third is at the dawn of day, when the 
musical chant of the muezzins from the thousand minarets 
of Cairo sounds most impressively through the clear and 
silent air. The voices of the criers thus raised above the 
city always struck me as having a holy and beautiful 

Chap. IV. MOSQUBS OF CAIftO* 98 

effect First one or two are heard faintly in the distance, 
then one close to you, then the cry is taken up from th6 
minarets of other mosques, and at last from one end of the 
town to the other, the measured chant falls pleasingly on 
the ear, inviting the faithful to prayer. For a time it 
seems as if there was a chorus of voices in the air, like 
spirits, calling upon each other to worship the Creator of 
all things. Soon the sound dies away, there is a silence 
for a while, and then commences the hum and bustle of 
the awakening city. This cry of man, to call his brother 
man to prayer, seems to me more appropriate and more 
accordant to religious feeling than the clang and jingle 
of our European bells. 

The fourth and most important time of prayer is at 
noon, and it is at this hour that the Sultan attends in state 
the mosque at Constantinople. The fifth and last prayer 
is at about three o'clock. The Bedouins of the desert, 
who, however, are not much given, to praying, consider 
this hour to have arrived when a stick, a spear, or a camel 
throws a shadow of its own height upon the ground. This 
time of the day is called " Al Assr." When wandering 
about in the deserts, I used always to eat my dinner or 
luncheon at that time, and it is wonderful to what exact- 
ness I arrived at last in my calculations respecting the 
time of the Assr. I knew to a minute when my drome- 
dary's shadow was of the right length. 

The minarets of Cairo are the most beautiful of any in 
the Levant ; indeed no others are to be compared to them. 
Some are of a prodigious height, built of alternate layers 
of red and white stone. A curious anecdote is told of the 



most ancient of all the minarets, that attached to the great 
mosque of Sultan Tayloon, an immense cloister or arcade 
surrounding a great square. The arches are all pointed, 
and are the earliest extant in that form, the mosque having 
been built in imitation of that at Mecca, in the year of the 
Hegira 265, Anno Domini fifit The minaret belonging 
to this magnificent building has a stone staircase winding 
round it outside : the reason of its having been built in 
this curious form is said to be, that the vizier of Sultan 
Tayloon found the king one day lolling on his divan and 
twisting a piece of paper in a spiral form ; the vizier 
remarking upon the trivial nature of the employment of 
so great a monarch, he replied, " I was thinking that a 
minaret in this form would have a good effect: give 
orders, therefore, that such a one be added to the mosque 
which I am building." 9 " In ancient times the mosques 
consisted merely of large open courts, surrounded by 
arcades; and frequently, on that side of the court which 
stood nearest to Mecca, this arcade was double. In later 
times covered buildings with large domes were added to 
the court ; a style of building which has always been 
adopted in more northern climates. 

* This, the first mosque built at Cairo, is said to have been paid 
for by Sultan Tayloon with a part of an immense treasure in gold, 
which he found under a monument called the altar of Pharaoh, on 
the mountain of Mokattam. This building was destroyed by Tay- 
loon, who founded a mosque upon the spot in the year 873, in 
honour of Judah,the brother of Joseph, who resorted thereto pray 
when he came to Egypt. This mosque becoming ruined, another 
was built upon the spot by the Emir £1 Guyoosh, minister of the 
Caliph Mostansir, a. d. 1094, which still remains perched on the 
corner of a rock, which is excavated in various places with ancient 


The finest mosque of this description is that of Sultan 
Hassan, in the plaoe of the Roumayli, near the citadel. 
It is a magnificent structure, of prodigious height ; it was 
finished about the year a. j>. 1362. The money necessary 
for its construction is said to have been procured by the 
following ingenious device. The good Sultan Hassan was 
determined to build a mosque and a tomb for himself, but 
finding a paucity of means in his treasury, he sent out 
invitations to all the principal people of the country to 
repair to a grand feast at his court, when he said he would 
present each of his loving subjects with a robe of honour. 
On the appointed day they accordingly all made their 
appearance, dressed in their richest robes of state. There 
was not one but had a Cashmere shawl round his turban, 
and another round his waist, with a jewelled dagger stuck 
in it ; besides other ornaments, and caftans of brocade and 
cloth of gold. They entered the place of the Roumayli, 
each accompanied by a magnificent train of guards and 
attendants, who, according to the jealous custom of the 
times, remained below ; while the chiefs, with one or two 
of their personal followers only, ascended into the citadel, 
and were ushered into the presence of the Sultan. They 
were received most graciously : how they contrived to 
pass their time in the fourteenth century, before the art of 
smoking was invented, I do not know ; but doubtless they 
sat in circles round great bowls of rice, piled over sheep 
roasted whole, discussed the merits of lambs stuffed with 
pistachio-nuts, and ate cucumbers for dessert. When the 
feast was concluded, the Sultan announced that each guest 
at his departure should receive the promised robe of honour; 


and as these distinguished personages, one by one, left the 
royal presence, they were conducted into a small chamber 
near the gate, in which were several armed officers of the 
household, who, with expression's of the most profound 
respect and solicitude, divested them of their clothes, which 
they immediately carried off. The astonished noble was 
then invested with a long white shirt, and ceremoniously 
handed out of an opposite door, which led to the exterior 
of the fortress, where he found his train in waiting. The 
Sultan kept all that he found worth keeping of the personal 
effects of his guests, who were afterwards glad to bargain 
with the chamberlain of the court for the restoration of 
their robes of state, which were ultimately returned to 
them— -for a consideration. The mosque of Sultan Hassan 
was built with the proceeds of this original scheme ; and 
the tomb of the founder is placed in a superb hall, seventy 
feet square, covered with a magnificent dome, which is 
one of the great features of the city. But he that soweth 
in the whirlwind shall rea{> in the storm. In consequence 
of the great height and thickness of the walls of this 
stately building, as well as from the circumstance of its 
having only One great gate of entrance, it was frequently 
seized and made use of as a fortress by the insurgents in 
the numerous rebellions and insurrections which were 
always taking place under the rule of the Mameluke 
kings. Great stains of blood are still to be seen on the 
marble walls of the court-yard, and even in the very 
chamber of the tomb of the Sultan there are the indelible 
marks of the various conflicts which have taken place, 
when the guardians of the mosque have been stabbed and 


cut down in its most sacred recesses. The two minarets 
of this mosque, one of which is much larger than the 
other, are among the most beautiful specimens of deco- 
rated Saracenic architecture. Of the largest of these 
minarets the following story is related. There was a man 
endued with a superabundance of curiosity, who, like 
Peeping Tom of Coventry, had a fancy for spying at the 
ladies on the house-tops from the summit of this minaret : 
at last he made some signals to one of the neighbouring 
ladies, which were unluckily discovered by the master of 
the house, who happened to be reposing in the harem* 
The two muezzins (as they often are) were blind men, and 
complaint was made to the authorities that the muezzins 
of Sultan Hassan permitted people to ascend the minarets 
to gaze into the forbidden precincts of the harems below. 
The two old muezzins were indignant when they were 
informed of this accusation, and were determined to watch 
for the intruder and kilt him on the spot, the first time that 
they should find him ascending the winding staircase of 
the minaret. In the course of a few days a good-natured 
person gave the alarm, and told the two blind men that 
somebody had just entered the doorway on the roof of the 
mosque by which the minaret is ascended ; one of the 
muezzins therefore ascended the minaret, armed with a 
sharp dagger, and the other waited at the narrow door 
below to secure the game whom his companion should 
drive out of the cover. The young man was surprised 
by the muezzin while he vras looking over the lower 
gallery of the minaret, but escaping from him he ran up 
the stairs to the upper gallery : here he was followed by 


his enemy, who cried to the old man at the bottom to be 
ready, for he had found the rascal who had brought such 
scandal on the mosque. The muezzin chased the intruder 
round the upper gallery, and he slipped through the door 
and ran down again to the lower one, where he waited till 
the muezzin passed him on the stairs, then taking' off his 
shoes he followed him lightly and silently till he arrived 
near the bottom door, when he suddenly pushed the muez- 
zin, who had been up the minaret, against the one who 
stood guard below ; the two blind men, each thinking he 
had got hold of the villain for whom he was in search, 
seized each other by the throat and engaged in mortal 
combat with their daggers, taking advantage of which the 
other escaped before the blind men had found out their 
mistake. At the next hour of prayer, their well-known 
voices not being heard as usual, some of the attendants at 
the mosque went up upon the roof to see what had hap- 
pened, when they found the muezains, who were just able 
to relate the particulars of their mistake before they died. 
It was in the place of the Roumayli that the gallant 
band of the Mameluke beys were assembled before 
they were entrapped and killed by the present task- 
master of Egypt, Mohammed Ali Pasha. They as- 
cended a narrow passage between two high bastions, 
which led from the lower to the upper gate. The 
lower gate was shut after they had passed, and they 
Were thus caught as in a trap. All of them were shot 
except one, who leaped his horse over the battlements and 
escaped. . This man became afterwards a great ally of 
Mohammed Ali, and I have often seen him riding about 

Chap. IV. JOStra's WILL— JOIUH'g HALL* M 

on a fine hone caparisoned with red velvet in the old 
Mameluke style. On the wall in one part of this passage, 
towards the inner gate, there is a square tablet AnntAming 
a bas-relief of a spread eagle: this is considered by 
the superstitious as the talisman of Cairo, and is said 
to give a warning cry when any calamity is about to 
happen to the city. Its origin, as well as most things 
of any antiquity in the citadel, is ascribed to Saladin 
(Yousef Sala Eddin), who is called here Yousef (Joseph); 
and Joseph's Well, and Joseph's Hall, are the two great 
lions of the place. 

The well, which is of great depth, is remarkable from 
its having a broad winding staircase cut in the rock, 
around the shaft: this extends only half way down, 
where two oxen are employed to draw water by a wheel 
and buckets from the bottom, which is here poured 
into a cistern, whence it is raised to the top by another 
wheel. It is supposed, however, that this well is an 
ancient work, and that it was only oleaned out by Saladin 
when he rebuilt the walls of the town and fortified 
the citadel. 

The hall, which was a very fine room, divided into 
aisles by magnificent antique columns of red granite, 
has unfortunately been pulled down by Mohammed Ali. 
He did this to make way for the mosque which he 
has built of Egyptian alabaster, a splendid material, 
but its barbarous Armenian architecture offers a sad 
contrast to the stately edifice which has been so ruth- 
lessly destroyed. It is indeed a sad thing for Cairo 
that the flimsy architecture of Constantinople, so utterly 


unsuited to this climate, has been introduced of late 
years in the public buildings and the palaces of the 
ministers, which lift up their bald and miserable white- 
washed walls above the beautiful Arabian works of 
earlier days. 

The residence of the Pasha is within the walls of 
the citadel. The long range of the windows of the harem 
from their lofty position overlook great part of the city, 
which must render it a more cheerful residence for the 
ladies than harems usually are. When a number of 
Eastern women are congregated together, as is frequently 
the case, without the society of the other sex, it is 
surprising how helpless they become, and how neglectful 
of everything excepting their own persons and their 
food. Eating and dressing are their sole pursuits. If 
there be a garden attached to the harem they take no 
trouble about it, and at Constantinople the ladies of 
the Sultan tread on the flower-beds and destroy the 
garden as a flock of sheep would do if let loose in it. 
A Turkish lady is the wild variety of the species. 
Many of them are beautiful and graceful, but they 
do not appear to abound in intellectual charms. Until 
the minds of the women are enlarged by better edu- 
cation, any chance of amelioration among the people 
of the Levant is hopeless ; for it is in the nursery that 
the seeds of superstition, prejudice, and unreason are 
sown, the effects of which cling for life to the minds 
even of superior men. 

Chap. V. nrrmviBw with mohammed ali. 41 


Interview with Mohammed Ali Pasha— Mode of lighting a Room 
in Egypt— Personal Appearance of the Pasha— His Diamond* 
mounted Pipe — The lost Handkerchief— An unceremonious At- 
tendant — View of Cairo from the Citadel — Site of Memphis; 
its immense extent — The Tombs of the Caliphs — The Pasha's 
Mausoleum— Costume of Egyptian Ladies— The Cobcob, or 
Wooden Clog— Mode of dressing the Hair— The Veil— Mistaken 
Idea that the Egyptian Ladies are Prisoners in the Harem ; their 
power of doing as they like — The Veil a complete Disguise- 
Laws of the Harem— A Levantine Beauty — Eastern Manners— 
The Abyssinian Slaves — Arab Girls— Ugliness of the Arab 
Women when old — Venerable Appearance of the old Men — An 
Arab Sheick. 

It was in the month of February, 1834, that I first had 
the honour of an audience with Mohammed Ali Pasha* 
It was during the Mahomedan month of Ramadan, when 
the day is kept a strict fast, and nothing passes the lips of 
the faithful till after sunset. It was at night, therefore, 
that we were received. My companion and myself were 
residing at that time under the hospitable roof of the Con- 
sul-General, and we accompanied him to the citadel. The 
effect of the crowds of people in the streets, all carrying 
lanterns, or preceded by men bearing the mashlak, blazing 
like a beacon on the top of its high pole, was very pictu- 
resque. The great hall of the citadel was full of men, 
arranged in rows with their faces towards the south, going 
through the forms and attitudes of evening prayer under 
the guidance of a leader, and with the precision of a regi- 
ment on drill. 


Passing these, a curtain was drawn aside, and we were 
ushered at once into the presence of the Viceroy, whom 
we found walking up and down in the middle of a large 
room, between two rows of gigantic silver candlesticks, 
which stood upon the carpet. This is the usual way of 
lighting a room in Egypt : — Six large silver dishes, about 
two feet in diameter and turned upside down, are first 
placed upon the floor, three on each side, near the centre 
of the room. On each of these stands a silver candlestick, 
between four and five feet high, containing a wax candle 
three feet long, and very thick. A seventh candlestick, 
of smaller dimensions, stands on the floor, separate from 
these, for the purpose of being moved about ; it is carried 
jto any one who wants to read a letter, or to examine an 
object more closely while he is seated on the divan. Al- 
most every room in the palace has an European chande- 
lier hanging from the ceiling, but I do not remember hav- 
ing ever seen one lit. These large candlesticks, standing 
in two rows, with the little one before them, always put 
me in mind of a line of life guards of gigantic stature, 
commanded by a little officer whom they could almost put 
in their pockets. 

Mohammed Ali desired us to be seated. He was at- 
tended by Boghos Bey, who remained standing and inter- 
preted for us. The Pasha at that time was a hale, broad- 
shouldered, broad-faced man : his short grey beard stuck 
out on each side of his face ; his nostrils were very much 
opened ; and, with his quick sharp eye, he looked like an 
old grey lion. The expression of his countenance was 
remarkably intelligent, but excepting this there was 


nothing particular in his appearance. He was attired in 
the Nizam dress of blue cloth. This costume consists of 
a red cap, a jacket with flying sleeves, a waistcoat with tight 
sleeves under it, a red shawl round the waist, a pair of 
trousers very full, like trunk hose, down to the knee, from 
whence to the ankle they were tight. The whole costume 
is always made of the same coloured cloth, usually black 
or blue. He had white stockings and yellow morocco 

When we were seated on the divan we commenced the 
usual routine of Oriental compliments; and coffee wan 
handed to us in cups entirely covered with large diamonds. 
A pipe was then brought to the Pasha, but not to us. This 
pipe was about seven feet long : the mouthpiece, of light 
green amber, was a foot long, and a foot more below the 
mouthpiece, as well as another part of the pipe lower down, 
was richly set with diamonds of great value, with a dia- 
mond tassel hanging to it. 

We discoursed for three quarters of an hour about the 
possibility of laying a railway across the Isthmus of Suez, 
which was the project then uppermost in the Pasha's mind ; 
but the circumstance which most strongly recalls this 
audience to my memory and which struck me as an in- 
stance of manners differing entirely from our own, was, in 
itself, a very trivial one. The Pasha wanted his pocket 
handkerchief; and looked about and felt in his pocket for 
it, but could not find it, making various exclamations 
during his search, which at last were answered by an at- 
tendant from the lower end of the room — " Feel in the 
other pocket," said the servant. " Well, it is not there," 


said the Pasha. " Look in the other, then." " I have 
not got a handkerchief," or words to that effect, were re- 
plied to immediately, — ?' Yes, you have ;" — " No, I have 
not;" — "Yes, you have." Eventually his attendant, ad- 
vancing up to the Pasha, felt in the pocket of his jacket, 
but the handkerchief was not to be found ; then he poked 
all round the Pasha's waist, to see whether it was not 
tucked into his shawl : that would not do. So he took 
hold of his Sovereign and pushed him half over on the 
divan, and looked under him to see whether he was sitting 
on the handkerchief; then he pushed him over on the 
other side. During all which manoeuvres the Pasha sat 
as quietly and passively as possible. The servant then, 
thrusting his arm up to the elbow in one of the pockets of 
his Highness's voluminous trousers, pulled out a snuff-box, 
a rosary, and several other things, which he laid upon the 
divan. That would not do, either ; so he came over to 
the other pocket, and diving to a prodigious depth he pro- 
duced the missing handkerchief from the recesses thereof; 
and with great respect and gravity, thrusting it into the 
Pasha's hand, he retired again to his place at the lower 
end of the hall. 

After being presented with sherbet, in glass bowls with 
covers, we took our leave, and rode home through the 
crowds of persons with paper lanterns, who turn night into 
day during the month of Ramadan. 

The view from that part of the bastions of the citadel 
which looks over the place of the Roumayli and the great 
mosque of Sultan Hassan is one of the most extraordinary 
that can be seen any where. The whole city is displayed 

Uup. V. XBHPHI8. 40 

at your feet; the numerous domes and minarets, the 
towers of the Saracenic walls, the flat roofs of the houses, 
and the narrowness of the streets giving it an aspect very 
different from that of an European town. You see the 
Nile and the gardens of Ibrahim Pasha in the island of 
Rhoda to the left ; and the avenue of Egyptian sycamores 
to the right, leading to the Pasha's country palace of 
Shoubra. Beyond the Nile, the bare mysterious-looking 
desert, and the Pyramids standing on their rocky base, 
lead the mind to dwell* upon the mighty deeds of ancient 
days. The forest of waving palm-trees, around Saccara, 
stretches away to the south-west, shading the mounds of 
earth which cover the remains of the vast city of Mem- 
phis, in comparison to which London would appear but a 
secondary town : for if we may judge from the line of 
pyramids from Giseh to Dashour, which formed the necro- 
polis of Memphis, and the various mounds and dykes and 
ancient remains which extend along the margin of the 
Nile for nearly six-and-thirty miles, the extreme length 
of London being barely eight, and of Paris not much 
more than four, Memphis must have been larger than 
London, Paris, and ancient Rome, all united ; and judging 
from the description which Herodotus has given us of the 
enormous size of the temples and buildings, which are 
now entirely washed away, in consequence of their having 
been built on the alluvial plain* which is every year inun- 
dated by the waters of the Nile, Memphis in its glory 
must have exceeded any modern city, as much as the 
Pyramids exceed any mausoleum which has been erected 
since those days. 


The tombs of the Caliphs, as they are called, although 
most of them are the burial-place of the Mameluke 
Sultans of Egypt, are magnificent and imposing buildings. 
Many of them consist of a mosque built round a court, to 
which is attached a great hall with a dome, under which 
is placed the Sultan's tomb. These beautiful specimens 
of Arabian architecture form a considerable town or city 
of the dead, on the east and south sides of Cairo, about a 
mile beyond the walls. I was astonished at their exceed- 
ing beauty and magnificence. Most of them were built 
during the two centuries preceding the conquest of Egypt, 
by Sultan Selim, in 1517, who tortured the last of the 
Mameluke Sultans, Toman Bey, and hung him with a 
rope, which is yet to be seen dangling over the gate called 
Bab Zuweyleh, in front of which criminals are still 

The mausoleum of Sultan Bergook is a triumph of 
Saracenic architecture. 

The minarets of these tombs are most richly ornamented 
with tracery, sculpture, and variegated marbles. The 
walls of many of them are built in alternate layers of red 
and white or black and white marble. The dome of the 
tomb of Kaitbay is of stone, sculptured all over with an 
arabesque pattern ; and there are several other domes in 
different mosques at Cairo equally richly ornamented. I 
have met with none comparable to them either in Europe 
or in the Levant. It is strange that none of the Italian 
architects ever thought of domes covered with rich orna- 
mental^ work in stone or marble; the effect of those at 
Cairo is indescribably fine. Unfortunately they are now 


much neglected ; but in the clear dry air of Egypt, time 
falls more lightly on the works of man than in the damp 
and chilly climates of the north, and the tombs of the 
Mameluke sovereigns will probably last for centuries to 
come if they are not pulled down for the materials, or 
removed to make way for some paltry lath and plaster 
edifice which will fall in the lifetime of its builder. 

Besides these larger structures, many of the smaller 
tombs, which are scattered over the desert for miles under 
the hills of Mokattam, are studies for the architect. 
There are numerous little domes of beautiful design, 
richly ornamented doors and gateways, tombs and tomb- 
stones of all sorts and sizes in infinite variety, most of 
them so well preserved in this glorious climate that the 
inscriptions on them are as legible as when they were 
first put up. 

The Pasha has built himself a house in this city of the 
dead, to which many members of his family have gone 
before him. This mausoleum consists of several buildings 
covered with low heavy domes, whitewashed or plastered 
on the outside. Within, jf 1 remember right, are the 
tombs of Toussoun and Ismael Pashas, and those of 
several of his wives, grand-children, and relatives ; they 
repose under marble monuments, somewhat resembling 
altars in shape, with a tall post or column at the head and 
feet, as is usual in Turkish graves ; the column at the 
head being carved into the form of the head-dress distinc- 
tive of the rank or sex of the deceased. These sepul- 
chral chambers are all carpeted, and Cashmere shawls are 
thrown over many of the tombs, while in arched recesses 


there are divans with cushions for the use of those who 
come to mourn over their departed relatives. 

We will now return to the living ; but so perfect, an 
account of the Arabian population of Cairo is to be found 
in Mr. Lane's * Modern Egypt,' that there is little left to 
say upon that subject, except that since that work was 
published the presence of numerous Europeans has dimi- 
nished the originality of the Oriental manners of this city, 
and numerous vices and modes of cheating, besides a 
larger variety of drunken scenes, are offered for the obser- 
vation of the curious, than existed in the more unso- 
phisticated times, before steamers came to Alexandria, 
and what is called the overland journey to India was 
established. The population of Cairo consists of the 
ruling class, who are all Turks, who speak Turkish, and 
affect to despise all who have never been rowed in a 
caique upon the Bosphorus. Then come the Arabs, the 
former conquerors of the land ; they form the bulk of the 
population — all the petty tradesmen and cultivators of the 
soil are of Arab origin. Besides these are the Copts, who 
are descended from the original lords of the country, the 
ancient Egyptians, who have left such wonderful monu- 
ments of their power. * After these may be reckoned the 
motley crew of Jews, Franks, Armenians, Arabs of Bar- 
bary and the Hejaz, Syrians, negroes, and Barabra ; but 
these are but sojourners in the land, and, except the Jews, 
can hardly be counted among the regular subjects of the 
Pasha. There are besides, the Levantine Christians, who 
are under the protection of one or other of the European 
powers. Many of this class are rich and influential mer- 


chants ; some of them live in the Oriental style, and 
others are ambitious to assume the tight clothing and 
manner of life of the Franks. The older merchants 
among the Levantines keep more to the Oriental ways of 
life, while the younger gentlemen and ladies follow the 
ugly fashion of Europe, particularly the men, who leave 
off the cool and convenient Eastern dress to swelter in the 
tight bandages of the Franks; the ladies, on the contrary, 
are apt to retain the Oriental costume, which in its turn is 
neither so becoming nor so easy as the Paris fashions. It 
must be the spirit of contradiction, so natural to the 
human race, which causes this arrangement ; for if the 
men kept to their old costume they would bo more com. 
fortable than they can be with tight clothes, coat-collars, 
and neckcloths, when the thermometer stands at 112° of 
Fahrenheit in the coolest shade, besides the dignity 
of their appearance, which is cast away with the folds 
of the Turkish or Arabian dress. The ladies would 
be much improved by the artful devices of the Parisian 
modistes; for although, when young and pretty, all 
women look well in almost any dress, the elder ladies are 
sometimes but little to be admired in the shapeless cos- 
tumes of the Levant, where the richness of the material 
does not make up for the want of fit and gracefulness 
which is the character of their dress. This may easily 
be imagined when it is understood that both men's and 
women's dresses may be bought ready made in the 
bazaar, and that any dress will fit anybody unless they 
are supernaturally fat or of dwarfish stature. 


An Egyptian lady's dress consists of a pair of im- 
mensely full trousers of satin or brocade, or often of a 
brilliant cherry-coloured silk ; these are tied under the 
knees, and descending to the ground, have the appearance 
of a very full petticoat. The Arabic name of this gar- 
ment is Shintian. Over this is worn a shirt of transparent 
silk gauze (Kamis). It has long full sleeves, which, as 
well as the border round the neck, are richly embroidered 
with gold and bright-coloured silks, The edge of the 
shirt is often seen like a tunic over the trousers, and has 
a pretty effect. Over this again is worn a long silk gown, 
open in front and on each side, called a yelek. The 
fashion is to have the yelek about a foot longer than' the 
lady who wears it ; so that its three tails shall just touch 
the ground when she is mounted on a pair of high wooden 
clogs, called cobcobs, which are intended for use in the 
bath, but in which they often clatter about in the house ; 
the straps over the instep, by which these cobcobs are 
attached to the feet, are always finely worked, and are 
sometimes of diamonds. The husband gives his bride 
on their marriage a pair of these odd-looking things, 
which are about six or eight inches high, and are always 
carried on a tray on a man's head in marriage proces- 
sions. The yelek fits the shape in some degree down to 
the waist ; it comes up high upon the neck, and has 
tightish sleeves, which are long enough to trail upon the 
ground. " Oh ! thou with the long-sleeved yelek " is a 
common chorus or ending to a stanza in an Arab song. 
Not round the waist but round the hips a large and heavy 
Cashmere shawl is worn over the yelek, and the whole 


gracefulness of an Egyptian dress consists in the way 
in which this is put on. In the winter a long gown, 
called Jubeh, is superadded to all this ; it is of cloth or 
velvet, or a sort of stuff made of the Angora goat's hair, 
and is sometimes lined with fur. 

Young girls do not often wear this nor the yelek, but 
have instead a waistcoat of silk with long sleeves like 
those of the yelek. This is called an anteri, and over it 
they wear a velvet jacket with short sleeves, which is so 
much embroidered with gold and pearls that the velvet is 
almost hid. Their hair hangs down in numerous long 
tails, plaited with silk, to which sequins, or little gold 
coins, are attached. The plaits must be of an uneven 
number : it would be unlucky if they were even. Some- 
times at the end of one of the plaits hangs the little golden 
bottle of surmeh with which they black the edges of their 
eyelids ; a most becoming custom when it is well done, 
and not smeared, as it often is, for then the effect is rather 
like that of a black eye, in the pugilistic sense of the 
term. On the head is worn a very beautiful ornament 
called a koors. It is in the shape of a saucer or shallow 
basin, and is frequently covered with rose diamonds. I 
am surprised that it has never been introduced into 
Europe, as it is a remarkably pretty head dress, with the 
long tresses of jet black hair hanging from under it, 
plaited with the shining coins. Round the head a hand- 
kerchief is wound, which spoils the effect of all the rest ; 
but a woman in the East is never seen with the head 
uncovered, even in the house ; and when she goes out, the 
veil, as we call it, though it has no resemblance to a veil, is 


used to conceal the whole person. A lady enclosed in this 
singular covering looks like a large bundle of black silk, 
diversified only by a stripe of white linen extending down 
the front of her person, from the middle of her nose to her 
ungainly yellow boots, into which her stockingless feet are 
thrust for the occasion. The veils of Egypt, of wnich the 
outer black silk covering is called a khabara, and the part 
over the face a boorkoo, are entirely different from those 
worn in Constantinople, Persia, or Armenia ; these are all 
various in form and colour, complicated and wonderful 
garments, which it would take too long to describe, 
but they, as well as the Egyptian one, answer their 
intended purpose excellently, for they effectually prevent 
the display of any grace or peculiarity of form or 

There is no greater mistake than to suppose that 
Eastern ladies are prisoners in the harem, and that 
they are to be pitied for the want of liberty which the 
jealousy of their husbands condemns them to. The 
Christian ladies live from choice and habit in the same 
way as the Mahomedan women : and indeed, the Egyptian 
fair ones have more facilities to do as they choose, to go 
where they like, and to carry on any intrigue than the 
Europeans ; for their complete disguise carries them 
safely everywhere. No one knows whether any lady 
he may meet in the bazaar is his wife, his daughter, or 
his grandmother ; and I have several times been addressed 
by Turkish and Egyptian ladies in the open street, and 
asked all sorts of questions in a way that could not be 
done in any European country. The harem, it is true, is 


by law inviolable: no one but the Sultan can enter it 
unannounced, and if a pair of strange slippers are seen 
left at the outer door, the master of the house oannot enter 
his own harem so long as this proof of the presence of 
a visitor remains. If the husband is a bore, an extra pair 
of slippers will at all times keep him out ; and the ladies 
inside may enjoy themselves without the slightest fear of 
interruption. It is asserted also that gentlemen, who are 
not too tall, have gone into all sorts of places under the 
protection of a lady's veil, so completely does it conceal 
the person. But this is not the case with the Levantine 
or Christian ladies : although they live in a harem, like 
the Mahomedans, it is not protected in the same way ; the 
slippers have not the same effect ; for the men of the 
family go in and out whenever they please ; and relations 
and visitors of the male sex are received in the apartments 
of the ladies. 

On one occasion I accompanied an English traveller, 
who had many acquaintances at Cairo, to the house of a 
Levantine in the vicinity of the Coptic quarter. Whilst 
we were engaged in conversation with an old lady, the 
curtain over the doorway was drawn aside, and there 
entered the most lovely apparition that can be conceived, 
in the person of a young lady about sixteen years old, the 
daughter of the lady of the house. She had a beautifully 
fair complexion, very uncommon in this country, remark- 
ably long hair, which hung down her back, and her dress, 
which was all of the same rich material, rose-coloured 
silk, shot with gold, became her so well, that I have 
rarely seen so graceful and striking a figure. She was 




closely followed by two black girls, both dressed in light 
blue satin, embroidered with silver ; they formed an 
excellent contrast to their charming mistress, and were 
very good-looking in their way, with their slight and 
graceful figures. The young Levantine came and sat by 
me on the divan, and was much amused at my blundering 
attempts at conversation in Arabic, of which I then knew 
scarcely a dozen words. I must confess that I was 
rather vexed with her for smoking a long jessamine pipe, 
which, however, most Eastern ladies do. She got up to 
wait upon us, and handed us the coffee, pipes, and sher- 
bet, which are always presented to visitors in every 
house. This custom of being waited upon by the ladies 
is rather distressing to our European notions of devotion 
to the fair sex : and I remember being horrified shortly 
after my arrival in Egypt at the manners of a rich old 
jeweller to whom I was introduced. His wife, a beauti- 
ful woman, superbly dressed in brocade, with gold and 
diamond ornaments, waited upon us during the whole time 
that I remained in the house. She was the first Eastern 
lady I had seen, and I remember being much edified at 
the way she pattered about on a pair of lofty cobcobs, and 
the artful way in which she got her feet out of them 
whenever she came up towards where we sat on the 
divan, at the upper end of the apartment. She stood at 
the lower end of the room ; and whenever the old brute 
of a jeweller wanted to return anything, some coins which 
he was showing me, or anything else, he threw them on 
the floor; and his beautiful wife jumping out of her cob- 
cobs picked them up ; and when she had handed them to 

Chap. V. ARAB tilKLS. 55 

some of the maids who stood at the door, resumed her 
station below the step at the other end of the room. She 
had magnificent eyes and luxuriant black hair, as they 
all have, and would have been considered a beauty in 
any country; but she was not to be compared to the 
bright little damsel in pink, who, besides her beauty, was 
as cheerful and merry as a bird, and whose lovely 
features were radiant with archness and intelligence. 
Many of the Abyssinian slaves are exceedingly hand- 
some : they have very expressive countenances, and the 
finest eyes in the world, and, withal, jso soft and humble a 
look, that I do not wonder at their being great favourites 
in Egyptian harems. Many of them, however, have a 
temper of their own, which comes out occasionally, and in 
this respect the Arab women are not much behind them. 
But the fiery passions of this burning. climate pass away 
like a thunderstorm, and leave the sky as clear and serene 
as it was before. 

The Arab girls of the lower orders are often very 
pretty from the age of about twelve to twenty, but they 
soon go off. j and the astounding ugliness of some of the 
old women is too terrible to describe. In Europe we 
have nothing half so hideous as these brown old women, 
and this is the more remarkable, because the old men 
are peculiarly handsome and venerable in their appear, 
ance, and often display a dignity of bearing which is sel- 
dom to be met with in Europe. The stately gravity of an 
Arab sheick, seated on the ground in the shade of a tree, 
with his sons and grandsons standing before him, waiting 
for his commands, is singularly imposing. 



Mohammed Bey, Defterdar — His Expedition to Senaai- His Bar- 
barity and Rapacity — His Defiance of the Pasha— Stories of hi* 
Cruelty and Tyranny— The Horse-Shoe — The Fight of the Ma- 
melukes—His cruel Treachery — His Mode of administering 
Justice— The stolen Milk— The Widow's Cow— Sale and Dis- 
tribution of the Thief— The Turkish Character — Pleasures of a 
Journey on the Nile — The Copts— Their Patriarchs — The Pa- 
triarch of Abyssinia — Basileos Bey — His Boat — An American's 
choice of a Sleeping-place. 

Just before my arrival in Cairo a certain Mahommed 
Bey, Defterdar, had died rather suddenly, after drinking 
a cup of coffee, a beverage which occasionally disagrees 
with the great men in Turkey, although not so much so 
now as in former days. This Defterdar, or accountant, 
had been sent by the Sultan to receive the Imperial reve- 
nue from the Pasha of Egypt, who had given him his 
daughter in marriage. As the presence of the Defterdar 
was probably a check upon the projects of the Pasha, he 
sent him to Senaar, at the head of an expedition, to 
revenge the death of Toussoun Pasha, his second son, 
who had been burned alive in his house by one of the 
exasperated chiefs of Nubia. This was a mission after 
Mohammed Bey's own heart : he impaled the chief and 
several of his family, and . displayed a rapacity and cru- 
elty unheard of before even in those blood-stained coun- 
tries. His talent for collecting spoil, and valuables of 
every description, was first-rate ; chests and bags of tie 
pure gold rings used in the traffic of Central Africa acou- 


mulated in his tents ; he did not stick at a trifle in his 
measures for procuring gold, pearls, and diamonds, 
wherever they were to be heard of; streams of blood 
accompanied his march, aud the vultures followed in his 
track. He was a sportsman too, and hunted slaves, kill- 
ing the old ones, and carrying off the children, whom he 
sent to Egypt to be sold. Many died on the journey ; 
but that did not much matter, as it increased the value of 
the rest. 

At last, after a most successful campaign, the Defterdar 
returned to his palace at Cairo, which was reported to be 
filled with treasure. The habits he had acquired in the 
upper country stuck to him after he got back to Egypt, 
and the Pasha was obliged to express his disapprobation 
of the cruelties which were 'committed by him on the most 
trivial occasions. The Defterdar, however, set the Pasha 
at defiance, told him he was no subject of his, but that he 
was an envoy from his master the Sultan, to whom alone 
he was responsible, and that he would do as he pleased 
with those under his command. The Pasha, it is said, 
made no further remonstrance, and continued to treat his 
son-in-law with distinguished courtesy. 

Numerous stories are told of the cruelty and tyranny 
of this man. One day, on his way to the citadel, he found 
that his horse had cast a shoe. He inquired of his groom, 
who in Egypt runs by the side of the horse, how it was 
that his horse had lost his shoe. The groom said he did 
not know, but that he supposed it had not been well nailed 
on. Presently they came to a farrier's shop ; the Defter- 
dar stopped, and ordered two horseshoes to be brought ; 



one was put upon the horse, and the other he made red hot, 
and commanded them to nail it firmly to the foot of the 
groom, whom in that condition he compelled to run by his 
horse's side up the steep hill which leads to the citadel. 

In Turkey, it was the custom in the houses of the great 
to have a number of young men, who in Egypt were called 
Mamelukes, after that gallant corps had been destroyed. 
A number of the Mamelukes of Mohammed Bey, Defter- 
dar, driven to desperation by the cruelties of their master, 
beat or killed one of the superior agas of the household, 
took some money which they found in his possession, and 
determined to escape from the service of their tyrant. His 
guards and kawasses soon found them out, and they retired 
to a strong tower, which they determined to defend, pre- 
ferring the remotest chance of successful resistance to the 
terrors of service under the ferocious Defterdar. The 
Bey, however, managed to cajole them with promises, and 
they returned to his palace, expecting to be better treated. 
They found the Bey seated on his divan in the Manderan 
or hall of audience, surrounded by the officers and 
kawasses whom interest had attached to his service. The 
young Mamelukes had given up the money which they 
had taken, and the Bey had it on the divan by his side. 
He now told them that if they would divide themselves 
into two parties and fight against each other, he would 
pardon the victorious party, present them with the bag of 
gold, and permit them to depart ; but that if they did not 
agree to this proposal he would kill them all. The Mame- 
lukes, finding they were entrapped, consented to the condi- 
tions of the Bey, and half their number were soon welter- 


ing in their blood on the floor of the hall. When the 
conquerors claimed the promised reward, the Defterdar, 
who had now far superior numbers on his side, again 
commanded them to divide and fight against each other. 
Again they fought in despair, preferring death by their 
own swords to the tortures which they knew the merciless 
Defterdar would inflict upon them now that he had got 
them completely in his power. At length only one Mame- 
luke remained, whom the Bey, with kind and encouraging 
words, ordered to approach, commending his valour and 
holding out to him the promised bag of gold as his reward. 
As he approached, stepping over the bodies of his compa- 
nions, who all lay dead or dying on the floor, and held out 
his hands for the money, the Defterdar, with a grim smile, 
made a sign to one of his kawasses, and the head of the 
young man rolled at the tyrant's feet. " Thus," said he, 
"shall perish all who dare to offend Mohammed Bey." 

The Defterdar was fond of justice, after a fashion, and 
his mode of administering it was characteristic. A poor 
woman came before him and complained that one of his 
kawasses had seized a cup of milk and drunk it, refusing 
to pay her its value, which she estimated at five paras (a 
para is the fortieth part of a piastre, which is worth about 
twopence-halfpenny). The sensitive justice of the Def- 
terdar was roused by this complaint. He asked the 
woman if she should know the person who had stoles her 
milk were she to see him again. The woman said she 
should ; upon which the whole household was drawn out 
before her, and looking round she fixed upon a man as the 
thief. "Very well," said the Defterdar; "I hope you 


are sure of your man, and that you have not made a false 
accusation before me. He shall be ripped open, and if the 
milk is found in his stomach, you shall receive your five 
paras ; but if there is no milk found, you shall be ripped 
up in turn for accusing one of my household unjustly." 
The unfortunate kawass was cut open on the spot ; some 
milk was found in him, and the woman received her five 

Another of his judicial sentences was rather an original 
conception. A man in Upper Egypt stole a cow from a 
widow, and having killed it, he cut it into twenty pieces, 
which he sold for a piastre each in the bazaar. The 
widow complained to the Defterdar, who seized the thief, 
and having without further ceremony cut him into twenty 
pieces, forced twenty people who came into the market on 
that day from the neighbouring villages to buy a piece of 
thief each for a piastre ; the joints of the robber were thus 
distributed all over the country, and the story told by the 
involuntary purchasers of these pounds of flesh had a 
wholesome effect upon the minds of the cattle-stealers : 
the twenty piastres were given to the woman, whose cows 
were not again meddled with during the lifetime of the 
Defterdar. But the character of this man must not be 
taken as a sample of the habits of the Turks in general. 
They are a grave and haughty race, of dignified manners ; 
rapaqjpus they often are, but they are generous and brave, 
and I do not think that, as a nation, they can be accused 
of cruelty. 

Nothing can be more secure and peaceable than a 
journey on the Nile, as every one knows nowadays. 

Chap. VI. ST. MARK. 91 

Floating along in a boat like a house, which stops and 
goes on whenever you like, you have no cares or 
troubles but those which you bring with you — " cerium 
non animum mutant qui trans mare currant." I can 
conceive nothing more delightful than a voyage up the 
Nile with agreeable companions in the wiater^ when 
the climate is perfection. There are the most wonderful 
antiquities for those who interest themselves in the 
remains of bygone days ; famous shooting on the banks 
of the river, capital dinners, if you know how to make the 
proper arrangements, comfortable quarters, and a constant 
change of scene. 

The wonders of the land of Ham, its temples and its 
ruins, have been so well and so often described that 
I shall not attempt to give any details regarding them, 
but shall confine myself to some sketches of the Coptic 
Monasteries which are to be seen on the rocks and 
deserts, either on the banks of the river or in the* neigh- 
bourhood of the valley of the Nile. 

The ancient Egyptians are now represent^ by their 
descendants the Copts, whose ancestors were converted to 
Christianity in the earliest ages, and whose patriarchs 
claim their descent, in uninterrupted succession, from St. 
Mark, who was buried at Alexandria, but whose body the 
Venetians in later ages boast of having transported to the 
island city.* 

* A fragment of the Gospel of St. Mark was found in the tomb 
which was reputed to be his. Damp and age hare decayed this 
precious relic, of which only some small fragments remain ; but 

62 THE COPTS. Chap. VI. 

The Copts look up to their patriarch as the chief of 
their nation : he is elected from among the brethren 
of the great monastery of St. Anthony on the borders of 
the Red Sea, a proceeding which ensures his entire 
ignorance of all sublunary matters, and his consequent 
incapacity»for his high and responsible office, unless he 
chance to be a man of very uncommon talents. Like the 
patriarch of Constantinople, he is usually a puppet in the 
hands of a cabal who make use of him for their own 
interested purposes, and when they have got him into a 
scrape leave him to get out of it as he can. He is called 
the Patriarch of Alexandria, but for many years his resi- 
dence has been at Cairo, where he has a large dreary 
palace. He is surrounded by priests and acolytes ; but 
when I was last at Cairo there was but one remaining 
Coptic scribe among them, whom I engaged to copy out 
the Gospel of St. Mark from an ancient MS. in the patri- 
archal library ; however, after a very long delay he 
copied out St. Matthew's Gospel by mistake, and I was 
told that there was no other person whose profession it 
was to copy Coptic writings. 

The patriarch has twelve bishops under him, whose 
residences are at Nagade, Abou Girg6, Aboutig, Siout, 
Girge, Manfalout, Maharaka, the Fioum, Atfeh, Behenese, 

an exact facsimile of it was made before it was destroyed. This 
facsimile is now in my possession : it is in Latin, and is written 
in double columns, on sixteen leaves of vellum, of a large quarto 
size, and proves that whoever transcribed the original must have 
been a proficient in the art of writing, for the letters are of great 
size and excellent formation, and in the style of the very earliest 


and Jerusalem ; he also consecrates the Abouna or Patri- 
arch of Abyssinia, who by a specific law must not be a 
native of that country, and who has not the privilege of 
naming his successor or consecrating archbishops or 
bishops, although in other respects his authority in 
religious matters is supreme. The Patriarch of Abys- 
sinia usually ordains two or three thousand priests at once 
on his first arrival in that country, and the unfitness 
of the individual appointed to this high office has 
sometimes caused much scandal. This has arisen 
from the difficulty there nas often been in getting a 
respectable person to accept the office, as it involves 
perpetual banishment from Egypt, and a residence 
among a people whose partiality to raw meat and other 
peculiar customs are held as abominations by the 

The usual trade and occupation of the Copts is that 
of kateb, scribe, or accountant ; they seem to have a 
natural talent for arithmetic. They appear to be more 
afflicted with ophthalmia than the Mahomedans, per- 
haps because they drink wine and spirits, which the 
others do not. 

The person of the greatest consequence among the 
Copts was Basileos Bey, the Pasha's confidential secretary 
and minister of finance. This gentleman was good 
enough to lend me a magnificent dahabieh or boat of the 
largest size, which I used for many months. It was an 
old-fashioned vessel, painted and gilt inside in a brilliant 
manner, which is not usual in more modern boats ; but 
being a person of a fanciful disposition, I preferred the 

64 American's choice of a sleeping-place, chap. VL 

roomy proportions and the quaint arabesque ornaments of 
this boat, although it was no very fast sailer, to the natty 
vessels which were more Europeanised and quicker than 
mine. The principal cabin was about ten feet by twelve, 
and was ornamented with paintings of peacocks of a peculiar 
breed and nondescript flowers. The divans, one on each 
side, were covered with fine carpets, and the cushions were 
of cloth of gold, with a raised pattern of red velvet. The 
ceilings were gilt, and we had two red silk flags of pro- 
digious dimensions in addition to streamers forty or fifty 
feet long at the end of each of the yard-arms : in short, it 
was full of what is called fantasia in the Levant, and as 
for its slowness, I consider that an advantage in the East. 
I like to take my time and look about me, and sit under a 
tree on a carpet when I get to an agreeable place, and I 
am in no hurry to leave it ; so the heavy qualities of the 
vessel suited me exactly — we did nothing but stop every- 
where. But although I confess that I like deliberate 
travelling, I do not carry my system to the extent of an 
American friend with whom I once journeyed from the 
shores of the Black Sea to Hungary. We were taking a 
walk together in the mountains near Mahadia, when seeing 
him looking about among the rocks I asked him what he 
wanted. " Oh," said he, " I am looking out for a good 
place to go to sleep in, for there is a beautiful view here, 
and I like to sleep where there is a fine prospect, that I 
may enjoy it when I awake ; so good afternoon, and if you 
come back this way mind you call me." Accordingly an 
hour or two afterwards I came back and aroused my 
friend, who was still fast asleep. " I hope you enjoyed 

Chap. VI. American's choice op a sleeping-place. 00 

your nap," said I ; "we had a glorious walk among the 
hills." " Yes," said he, "I had a famous nap." " And 
what did you think of the view when you awoke?" 
« The view !" exclaimed he, " why, I forgot to look at it !" 




Visit to the Coptic Monasteries near the Natron, Lakes— The De 
sert of Nitria— Early Christian Anchorites — St. Macarius of Alex- 
andria — His Abstinence and Penance — Order of Monks founded 
by him — Great increase of the Number of ascetic Monks in the 
Fourth Century — Their subsequent decrease, and the present 
ruined state of the Monasteries— Legends of the Desert— Captuje 
of a Lizard — Its alarming escape — The Convent of Baramous— 
Night attacks— Invasion of Sanctuary — Ancient Glass Lamps — 
Monastery of Souriani — Its Library and Coptic MSS. — The Blind 
Abbot and his Oil-cellar— The persuasive powers of Rosoglio- • 
Discovery of Syriac MSS.— The Abbot's supposed treasure. 

In the month of March, 1837, 1 left Cairo for the purpose 
of visiting the Coptic monasteries in the neighbourhood of 
the Natron lakes, which are situated in the desert to the 
north-west of Cairo, on the western side of the Nile. 1 
had some difficulty in procuring a boat to lake me down 
the river — indeed there was not one to be obtained ; but 
two English gentlemen, on their way from China to Eng- 
land, were kind enough to give me a passage in their boat 
to the village of TerranS, the nearest spot upon the banks 
of the Nile to the monasteries which I proposed to visit. 

The Desert of Nitria is famous in the annals of monas- 
tic history as the first place to which the Anchorites, in 
the early ages of Christianity, retired from the world in 
order to pass their lives in prayer and contemplation, and 
in mortification of the flesh. It was in Egypt where 


monasticism first took its rise, and the Coptic monasteries 
of St. Anthony and St. Paul claim to be founded on the 
spots where the first hermits established their cells on the 
shores of the Red Sea. Next in point of antiquity are the 
monasteries of Nitria, of which we have authentic accounts 
dated as far back as'the middle of the second century ; for 
about the year 150 a. d. Fronto retired to the valleys of the 
Natron lakes with seventy brethren in his company. The 
Abba Ammon (whose life is detailed in the ' Vitoe Patrum' 
of Rosweyd, Antwerp, 1628, a volume of great rarity and 
d ulness, which I only obtained after a long search among 
the mustiest of the London book-stalls) flourished, or rather 
withered, in this desert in the beginning of the fourth cen- 
tury. At this time also the Abba Bischoi founded the 
monastery still called after his name, which, it seems, was 
Isaiah or Esa : the Coptic article Pe or Be makes it Besa, 
under which name he wrote an ascetic work, a manuscript 
of which, probably almost if not quite as old as his time, 
I procured in Egypt. It is one of the most ancient manu- 
scripts now extant. 

But the chief and pattern of all tbe recluses of Nitria 
was the great St. Macarius of Alexandria, whose feast- 
day — a day which he never observed himself— is still kept 
by the Latins on the 2nd, and by the Greeks on the 19th 
of January. This famous saint died a.d. 394, after sixty 
years of austerities in various deserts : he first retired into 
the Thebaid in the year 335, and about the year 373 
established himself in a solitary cell on the borders of the 
Natron lakes. Numerous anchorites followed his example, 
all living separately, but meeting together on Sundays for 


public prayer. Self-denial and abstinence were their 
great occupations : and it is related that a traveller having 
given St. Macarius a bunch of grapes, he sent it to another 
brother, who sent it to a third, and at last, the grapes 
having passed through the hands of some hundreds of 
hermits, came back to St. Macarius, who rejoiced at such 
a proof of the abstinence of his brethren, but refused to 
eat of it himself. This same saint having thoughtlessly 
killed a gnat which was biting him, he was so unhappy 
at what he had done, that to make amends for his inadver- 
tency, and to increase his mortifications, he retired to the 
marshes of Scete, where there were flies whose powerful 
stings were sufficient to pierce the hide of a wild boar ; 
here he remained six months, till his body was so much 
disfigured that his brethren on his return only knew him 
by the sound of his voice. He was the founder of the 
monastic order which, as well as the monastery still ex- 
isting on the site of his cell, was called after his name. 
By their rigid rule the monks are bound to fast the whole 
year, excepting on Sundays and during the period between 
Easter and Whitsuntide : they were not to speak to a stran- 
ger without leave. During Lent St. Macarius fasted all 
day, and sometimes eat nothing for two or three days to- 
gether ; on Sundays, however, he indulged in a raw cab- 
bage-leaf, and in short set such an example of abstinence 
and self-restraint to the numerous anchorites of the desert, 
that the fame of his austerities gained him many admirers. 
Throughout the middle ages his name is mentioned with 
veneration in all the collections of the lives of the saints : 
he is represented pointing out the vanities of life in the 


great fresco of the Triumph of Death, by Andrea Orcagna, 
in the Campo Santo at Pisa. In his Life in Cax ton's 
* Golden Legende,' and in ' The Lives of the Fathers,' by 
Wynkyn de Worde, a detailed account will be found of a 
most interesting conversation which Macarius had with the 
devil, touching divers matters. Several of his miracles 
are also put into modern English, in Lord Lindsay's book 
of Christian Art. I have a MS. of the Gospels in Coptic, 
written by the hand of one Zapita Leporos, under the rule 
of the great Macarius, in the monastery of Laura, about 
the year 390, and which may have been used by the Saint 

After the time of Macarius the number of ascetic monks 
increased to a surprising amount. Rufinus, who visited 
them in the year 372, mentions fifty of their convents ; 
Palladius, who was there in the year 387, reckons the 
devotees at five thousand. St. Jerome also visited them, 
and their number seems to have been kept up without 
much diminution for several centuries.* After the con- 
quest of Egypt by the Arabians, and about the year 967, a 
Mahomedan author, Aboul Faraj of Hispahan, wrote a 
book of poems, called the ' Book of Convents,' which is 
in praise of the habits and religious devotion of the Chris- 
tian monks. The dilapidated monastery of St. Macarius 
was repaired and fortified by Sanutius, Patriarch of Alex- 
andria, at which good work he laboured with his own 
hands : this must have been about the year 880, as he died 
in 881. In more recent time% the multitude of ascetics 

• See Quarterly Review, vol. lxxvii. p. 43 


gradually decreased, and but few travellers have extended 
their researches to their arid haunts. At present only- 
four monasteries remain entire, although the ruins of 
many others may still be traced in the desert tracks on 
the west side of the line of the Natron lakes, and the 
valley of the waterless river, which, at some very remote 
period, is supposed to have formed the bed of one of the 
branches of the Nile. 

At the village of Terran6 1 was most hospitably received 
by an Italian gentleman, who was superintending the ex- 
port of the natron. Here I procured camels; I had 
brought a tent with me ; and the next day we set off 
across the plain, with the Arabs to whom the camels 
belonged, and who, having been employed in the transport 
of the natron, were able to show us the way, which it 
would have been very difficult to trace without their help. 
The memory of the devils and evil spirits who, according 
to numerous legends, used formerly to haunt this desert, 
seemed still to awaken the fears of these Arab guides. 
During the first day's journey I talked to them on the 
subject, and found that their minds were full of supersti- 
tious fancies. 

It is said that tailors sometimes stand up to rest them- 
selves, and on that principle I had descended from my 
huge, ungainly camel, who had never before been used for 
riding, and whose swinging paces were very irksome, and 
was resting myself by walking in his shade, when seeing 
something run up to a large stone which lay in the way, I 
' moved it to see what it was. I found a lizard, six or eight 
inches long, of a species with which I was unacquainted. 


I caught the reptile by the nape of the neck, which made 
him open his ugly mouth in a curious way, and he wrig- 
gled about so much that I oould hardly hold him. Judg- 
ing that he might be venomous, I looked about for some 
safe place to put him, and my eye fell upon the large 
glass lantern which was used in the tent ; that, I thought, 
was just the thing for my lizard, so I put him into 
the lantern, which hung at the side of the baggage camel, 
intending to examine him at my leisure in the evening. 
When the sun was about to set, the tent was pitched, and 
a famous fire lit for the cook. It was in a bare, open 
place, without a hill, stock, or stone in sight in any direc- 
tion all around. The camels were tethered together, near 
the baggage, which was piled in a heap to the windward 
of the fire ; and, as it was getting dark, one of the Arabs 
took the lantern to the fire -to light it. He got a blazing 
stick for this purpose, and held up the lantern close to his 
face to undo the hasp, which he had no sooner accom- 
plished than out jumped the lizard upon his shoulder 
and immediately made his escape. The Arab, at this 
unexpected attack, gave a fearful yell, and dashing the 
lantern to pieces on the ground, screamed out that the 
devil had jumped upon him and had disappeared in 
the darkness, and that he was certain he was waiting to 
carry us all off. The other Arabs were seriously alarmed, 
and for a long while paid no attention to my explanation 
about the lizard, which was the cause of all the disturb- 
ance. The worst of the affair was that the lantern being 
broken to bits, we could have no light ; for the wind blew 
the candles out, notwithstanding our most ingenious efforts 


to shelter them. The Arabs were restless all night, and 
before sunrise we were again under way, and in the course 
of the day arrived at the convent of Baramous. This 
monastery consisted of a high stone wall, surrounding a 
square enclosure of about an acre in extent. A large 
square tower commanded the narrow entrance, which was 
closed by a low and narrow iron door. Within there was 
a good-sized church in tolerable preservation, standing 
nearly in the centre of the enclosure, which contained 
nothing else but some ruined buildings and a few large 
fig-trees, growing out of the disjointed walls. Two or 
three poor-looking monks still tenanted the ruins of 
the abbey. They had hardly anything to offer us, and 
were glad to partake of some of the rice and other eatables 
which we had brought with us. I wandered about among 
the ruins with the half-starved monks following me. We 
went into the square tower, where, in a large vaulted room 
with open unglazed windows, were forty or fifty Coptic 
manuscripts on cotton paper lying on the floor, to which 
several of them adhered firmly, not having been moved 
for many years. I only found one leaf on vellum, which 
I brought away. The other manuscripts appeared to be 
all liturgies ; most of them smelling of incense when I 
opened them, and well smeared with dirt and wax from the 
candles which had been held over them during the reading 
of the service, 

I took possession of a half-ruined cell, where my carpets 
were spread, and where I went to sleep early in the even- 
ing ; but I had hardly closed my eyes before I was so brisk- 
ly attacked by a multitude of ravenous fleas, that I jumped 


up and ran out into the court to shake myself and get rid 
if I could of my tormentors. The poor monks, hearing 
my exclamations, crept out of their holes and recom- 
mended me to go into the church, which they said 
would be safe from the attacks of the enemy. I accord- 
: ngly took a carpet which I had well shaken and beaten, 
and lay down on the marble floor of the church, where I 
presently went to sleep. Again I was awakened by the 
wicked fleas, who, undeterred by the sanctity of my asy- 
lum, renewed their attack in countless legions. The 
slaps I gave myself were all in vain ! for, although I slew 
them by dozens in my rage, others came on in their place. 
There was no withstanding them, and, fairly vanquished, 
I was forced to abandon my position, and walk about and 
look at the moon till the sun rose, when my villainous 
tormentors slunk away and allowed me a short snatch 
of repose which they had prevented my enjoying all night 
There were several curious lamps in this church formed 
of ancient glass like those in the mosque of Sultan 
Hassan at Cairo, which are said to be of the same date 
as the mosque, and to be of Syrian manufacture. These, 
which were in the shape of large open vases, were orna- 
mented with pious sentences in Arabic characters, in blue 
on a white ground.* They were very handsome, and, 
except one of the same kind, which is now in England, in 
the possession of Mr. Magniac, I never saw any like them. 

• It is perhaps more likely that these beautiful specimens of 
ancient glass were made in the island of Murano, in the lagunes 
of Venice, as the manufactories of the Venetians supplied the Ma- 
homedans with many luxuries in the middle ages 



They are probably some of the most ancient specimens 
of ornamental glass existing, excepting, of course, the 
vases and lachrymatories of the classic times. 

Quitting the monastery of Baramous, we went to that 
of Souriani, where we left our baggage and tent, and pro- 
ceeded to visit the monasteries of Amba Bischoi and Abou 
Magar, or St. Macarius, both of which were in very poor 
condition. These monasteries are so much alike in their 
plan and appearance, that the description of one is the 
description of all. 1 saw none but the church books in 
either of them, and at the time of my visit they were 
apparently inhabited only by three or four monks, who 
conducted the services of their respective churches. 

On this journey we passed many ruins and heaps of 
stones nearly level with the ground, the remains of some 
of the fifty monasteries which once flourished in the 
wilderness of Scete. 

In the evening I returned to Souriani, where I was 
hospitably received by the abbot and fourteen or fifteen 
Coptic monks. . They provided me with an agreeable room 
looking into the garden within the walls. My servants 
were lodged in some other small cells or rooms near mine, 
which happily not being tenanted by fleas or any other 
wild beasts of prey, was exceedingly comfortable when 
my bright-coloured carpets and cushions were spread upon 
the floor; and, after the adventures of the two former 
nights, I rested in great comfort and peace. 

In the morning I went to see the church and all the 
other wonders of the place, and on making inquiries about 
the library, was conducted by the old abbot, who was 


blind, and was constantly accompanied by another monk, 
into a small upper room in the great square tower, where 
we found several Coptic manuscripts. Most of these were 
lying on the floor, but some were placed in niches in the 
stone wall. They were all on paper, except three or four. 
One of these was a superb manuscript of the Gospels, 
with commentaries by the early fathers of the church ; 
two others were doing duty as coverings to a couple of 
large open pots or jars, which had contained preserves, 
long since evaporated. I was allowed to purchase these 
vellum manuscripts, as they were considered to be useless 
by the monks, principally I believe because there were no 
more preserves in the jars. On the floor I found a fine 
Coptic and Arabic dictionary. I was aware of the exist- 
ence of this volume, with which they refused to part. I 
placed it in one of the niches in the wall ; and some years 
afterwards it was purchased for me by a friend, who sent 
it to England after it had been copied at Cairo. They 
sold me two imperfect dictionaries, which I discovered 
loaded with dust upon the ground. Besides these, I did 
not see any other books but those of the liturgies for 
various holy days. These were large folios on cotton 
paper, most of them of considerable antiquity, and well 
begrimed with dirt. 

The old blind abbot had solemnly declared that there 
were no other books in the monastery besides those which 
I had seen ; but I had been told, by a French gentleman 
at Cairo, that there were many ancient manuscripts in the 
monks' oil cellar ; and it was in the pursuit of these and 
the Coptic dictionary that I had undertaken the journey to 


the Natron lakes. The abbot positively denied the exist* 
ence of these books, and we retired from the library to 
my room with the Coptic manuscripts which they had 
ceded to me without difficulty ; and which, according to 
the dates contained in them, and from their general 
appearance, may claim to be considered among the oldest 
manuscripts in existence, more ancient certainly than 
many of the Syriac MSS. which I am about to describe. 

The abbot, his companion, and myself sat down 
together. I produced a bottle of rosoglio from my stores, 
to which I knew that all Oriental monks were partial ; for 
though they do not, I believe, drink wine because an 
excess in its indulgence is forbidden by Scripture, yet 
ardent spirits not having been invented in those times, 
there is nothing said about them in the Bible ; and at 
Mount Sinai and all the other spots of sacred pilgrimage 
the monks comfort themselves with a little glass or rather 
a small ooftee cup of arrack or raw spirits when nothing 
better of its kind is to be procured. Next to the golden 
key, which masters so many locks, there is no better 
opener of the heart than a sufficiency of strong drink, — 
not too much, but exactly the proper quantity judiciously 
exhibited (to use a chemical term in the land of Al 
Chem6, where alchemy and chemistry first had their 
origin). I have always found it to be invincible; and 
now we sat sipping our cups of the sweet pink rosoglio, 
and firing little compliments at each other, and talking 
pleasantly over our bottle till some time passed away, and 
the face of the blind abbot waxed bland and confiding ; 
and he had that expression on his countenance whi«h men 


wear when they are pleased with themselves and hear 
goodwill towards mankind in general. I had by the by a 
great advantage over the good abbot, as I could see the 
workings of his features and he could not see mine, or 
note my eagerness about the oil-cellar, on the subject of 
which I again gradually entered. "There is no oil 
there," said he. " I am curious to see the architecture of 
so ancient a room," said I ; " for I have heard that yours 
is a famous oil-cellar." " It is a famous cellar," said the 
other monk. " Take another cup of rosoglio," said I. 
" Ah !" replied he, " I remember the days when it over- 
flowed with oil, and then there were I do not know how 
many brethren here with us. But now we are few and 
poor ; bad times are come over us : we are not what we 
used to be." "I should like to see it very much," 
said I ; "I have heard so much about it even at 
Cairo. Let us go and see it; and when we come 
back we will have another bottle ; and I will give 
you a few more which I have brought with me for your 
private use." 

This last argument prevailed. We returned to the 
great tower, and ascended the steep flight of steps which 
led to its door of entrance. We then descended a narrow 
staircase to the oil-cellar, a handsome vaulted room, 
where we found a range of immense vases which formerly 
contained the oil, but which now on being struck returned 
a mournful, hollow sound. There was nothing else to be 
seen : there were no books here : but taking the candle 
from the hands of one of the brethren (for they had all 
wandered in after us, having nothing else to do), I dis- 
covered a narrow low door, and, pushing it open, entered 

78 the abbot's SUPPOSED TREASURE. Chap. VIL 

into a small closet vaulted with stone which was filled to 
the depth of two feet or more with the loose leaves of the 
Syriac manuscripts which now form one of the chief 
treasures of the British Museum. Here I remained for 
some time turning over the leaves and digging into the 
mass of loose vellum pages ; by which exertions I raised 
such a cloud of fine pungent dust that the monks 
relieved each other in holding our only candle at the 
door, while the dust made us sneeze incessantly as we 
turned over the scattered leaves of vellum. I had 
extracted four books, the only ones I could find which 
seemed to be tolerably perfect, when two monks who 
were struggling in the corner pulled out a great big 
manuscript of a brown and musty appearance and of 
prodigious weight, which was tied together with a cord. 
" Here is a box !" exclaimed the two monks, who were 
nearly choked with the dust ; " we have found a box, 
and a heavy one too !" " A box !" shouted the blind 
abbot, who was standing in the outer darkness of the 
oil-cellar — " A box ! Where is it ? Bring it out ! bring 
out the box ! Heaven be praised ! We have found 
a treasure ! Lift up the box ! Pull out the box ! 
A box ! A box ! Sandouk ! sandouk !" shouted all 
the monks in various tones of voice. " Now then 
let us see the box ! bring it out to the light !" 
they cried ! " What can there be in it V and 
they all came to help and carried it away up the 
stairs, the blind abbot following them to the outer 
door, leaving me to retrace my steps as I could 
with the volumes which I nad dug out of their 
literary grave. 



View from the Convent Wall — Appearance of the Desert— Iu 
grandeur and freedom — Its contrast to the Convent Garden — 
Beauty and luxuriance of Eastern Vegetation— Picturesque Group 
of the Monks and their Visitors — The Abyssinian Monks — Their 
appearance — their austere mode of Life— The Abyssinian Col- 
lege — Description of the Library — The mode of writing in Abys- 
sinia — Immense Labour required to write an Abyssinian book — 
Paintings and Illuminations — Disappointment of the Abbot at 
finding the supposed Treasure-box only an old Book — Purchase 
of the MSS. and Books — The most precious left behind— Since 
acquired for the British Museum. 

On leaving the dark recesses of the tower I paused at the 
narrow door by which we had entered, both to accustom 
my eyes to the glare of the daylight, and to look at the 
scene below me. I stood on the top of a steep flight of 
stone steps, by which the door of the tower was approach- 
ed from the court of the monastery : the steps ran up the 
inside of the outer wall, which was of sufficient thickness 
to allow of a narrow terrace within the parapet ; from 
this point I could look over the wall on the left hand upon 
the desert, whose dusty plains stretched out as far as I 
could see, in hot and dreary loneliness to the horizon. 
To those who are not familiar with the aspect of such a 
region as this, it may be well to explain that a desert such 
as that which now surrounded me resembles more than 
anything else a dusty turnpike-road in England on a hot 
summer's day, extended interminably, both as to length 
and breadth. A country of low rounded hills, the surface 
of which is composed entirely of gravel, dust, and stones. 


will give a good idea of the general aspect of a desert. 
Yet, although parched and dreary in the extreme from 
their vastness and openness* there is something grand and 
sublime in the silence and loneliness of these burning 
plains ; and the wandering tribes of Bedouins who inhabit 
them are seldom content to remain long in the narrow 
inclosed confines of cultivated land. There is always a 
fresh breeze in the desert, except when the terrible hot 
wind blows ; and the air is more elastic and pure than 
where vegetation produces exhalations which in all hot 
climates are more or less heavy and deleterious. The air 
of the desert is always healthy, and no race of men en- 
joy a greater exemption from weakness, sickness, and dis- 
ease than the children of the desert, who pass their lives 
in wandering to and fro in search of the scanty herbage on 
which their flocks are fed, far from the cares and troubles 
of busy cities, and free from the oppression which grinds 
down the half-starved cultivators of the fertile soil of 

Whilst from my elevated position I looked out on my 
left upon the mighty desert, on my right how different 
was the scene ! There below my feet lay the convent 
garden in all the fresh luxuriance of tropical vegetation. 
Tufts upon tufts of waving palms overshadowed the im- 
mense succulent leaves of the banana, which in their turn 
rose out of thickets of the pomegranate rich with its 
bright green leaves and its blossoms of that beautiful and 
vivid red which is excelled by few even of the most oril- 
Iiant flowers of the East. These were contrasted with the 
deep dark green of the caroub or locust tree ; and the 


yellow apples of the lotus vied with the clusters of green 
limes with their sweet white flowers which luxuriated in 
a climate too hot and sultry for the golden fruit of the 
orange, which is not to be met with in the valley of the 
Nile. Flowers and fair branches exhaling rich perfume 
and bearing freshness in their very aspect became more 
beautiful from their contrast to the dreary arid plains out- 
side the convent walls, and this great difference was owing 
. solely to there being a well of water in this spot from 
which a horse or mule was constantly employed to draw 
the fertilizing streams which nourished the teeming vege- 
tation of this monastic garden. 

I stood gazing and moralizing at these contrasted scenes 
for some time; but at length when I turned my eyes 
upon my companion and myself, it struck me that we also 
were somewhat remarkable in our way. First there was 
the old blind grey-bearded abbot, leaning on his staff, sur- 
rounded with three or four dark robed Coptic monks, 
holding in their hands the lighted candles with which we 
had explored the secret recesses of the oil-cellar ; there 
was I dressed in the long robes of a merchant of the East, 
with a small book in the breast of my gown and a big one 
under each arm ; and there were my servants armed to 
the teeth and laden with old books ; and one and all we 
were so covered with dirt and wax from top to toe, that 
we looked more as if we had been up the chimney than like 
quiet people engaged in literary researches. One of the 
monks was leaning in a brown study upon the ponderous 
and gigantic volume in its primaeval binding, in the inte- 
rior of which the blind abbot had hoped to find a treasure* 



Perched upon the battlements of this remote monastery 
we formed as picturesque a group as one might wish to 
see ; though perhaps the begrimed state of our flowing 
robes as well as of our hands and faces would render a 
somewhat remote point of view more agreeable to the 
artist than a closer inspection. 

While we had been standing on the top of the steps, I 
had heard from time to time some incomprehensible sounds 
which seemed to arise from among the green branches of 
the palms and fig-trees in a corner of the garden at our 
feet. " What," said I to a bearded Copt, who was seated 
on the steps, " is that strange howling noise which I hear 
among the trees ? I have heard it several times when the 
rustling of the wind among the branches has died away 
for a moment. It sounds something like a chant, or a 
dismal moaning song : only it is different in its cadence 
from anything I have heard before." "That noise," 
' replied the monk, " is the sound of the service of the 
church which is being chanted by the Abyssinian monks. 
Come down the steps and I will show you their chapel and 
their library. The monastery which they frequented in 
this desert has fallen to decay ; and they now live here, 
their numbers being recruited occasionally by pilgrims on 
their way from Abyssinia to Jerusalem, some of whom 
pass by each year ; not many now, to be sure ; but still 
fewer return to their own land." 

Giving up my precious manuscripts to the guardianship 
)f my servants and desiring them to put them down care- 
fully in my cell, I accompanied my Coptic friend into the 
garden, and turning round some bushes, we immediately 


encountered one of the Abyssinian monks walking with a 
book in his hand under the shade of the trees. Presently 
we saw three or four more ; and very remarkable looking 
persons they were. These holy brethren were as black 
as crows ; tall, thin, ascetic looking men of a most origi- 
nal aspect and costume. I have seen the natives of many 
strange nations, both before and since, but I do not know 
that I ever met with so singular a set of men, so completely 
the types of another age and of a state of things the oppo- 
site to European, as these Abyssinian Eremites. They 
were black, as I have already said, which is not the usual 
complexion of the natives of Habesh ; and they were all 
clothed in tunics of wash leather made, they told me, of 
gazelle skins. This garment came down to their knees, 
and was confined round their waist with a leathern girdle. 
Over their shoulders they had a strap supporting a case 
like a cartridge-box, of thick brown leather, containing a 
manuscript book ; and above this they wore a large shape- 
less cloak or toga, of the same light yellow wash leather 
as the tunic ; I do not think that they wore anything on 
the head, but this I do not distinctly remember. Their 
legs were bare, and they had no other clothing, if I may 
except a profuse smearing of grease ; for they had anointed 
themselves in the most lavish manner, not with the oil of 
gladness, but with that of castor, which however had by 
no means the effect of giving them a cheerful countenance ; 
for although they looked exceedingly slippery and greasy, 
they seemed to be an austere and dismal set of fanatics : 
true disciples of the great Macarius, the founder of these 
secluded monasteries, and excellently calculated to figure in 


that grim chorus of his invention, or at least which is called 
after his name, " La danse Macabre," known to us by the 
appellation of the Dance of Death* They seemed to be 
men who fasted much and feasted little ; great observers 
were they of vigils, of penance, of pilgrimages, and mid- 
night masses ; eaters of bitter herbs for conscience' sake. 
It was such men as these who lived on the tops of columns, 
and took up their abodes in tombs, and thought it was a 
sign of holiness to look like a wild beast — that it was 
wicked to be clean, and superfluous to be useful in this 
world ; and who did evil to themselves that good might 
come. Poor fellows ! they meant well, and knew no 
better ; and what more can be said for the endeavours of 
the best of men ? 

Accompanied by a still increasing number of these wild 
priests we traversed the shady garden, and came to a 
building with a flat roof, which stood in the south-east cor- 
ner of the enclosure and close to the outer wall. This was 
the college or consistory of the Abyssinian monks, and the 
accompanying sketch made upon the spot will perhaps 
explain the appearance of this room better than any written 
description". The round thing upon the floor is a table 
upon which the dishes of their frugal meal were set ; by 
the side of this low table we sat upon the ground on the 
skin of some great wild beast, which did duty as a carpet. 
This room was also their library, and on my remarking 
the number of books whiclj I saw around me they seemed 
proud of their collection, and told me that there were not 
many such libraries as this in their country. There were 
perhaps nearly fifty volumes, and as the entire literature 


of Abyssinia does not include more than double that num- 
ber of works, I could easily imagine that what I saw 
around me formed a very considerable accumulation or 
manuscripts, considering the barbarous state of the coun- 
try from which they came. 

The disposition of the manuscripts in this library was 
very original. I have had no means of ascertaining 
whether all the libraries of Abyssinia are arranged in the 
same style. The room was about twenty-six feet long, 
twenty wide, and twelve high ; the roof was formed of the 
trunks of palm trees, across which reeds were laid, which 
supported the mass of earth and plaster, of which tho 
terrace roof was composed ; the interior of the walls was 
plastered white with lime ; the windows, at a good height 
from the ground, were unglazed, but were defended with 
bars of iron- wood or some other hard wood; the door 
opened into the garden, and its lock, which was of wood 
also, was of that peculiar construction which has been 
used in Egypt from time immemorial. A wooden shelf 
was carried in the Egyptian style round the walls, at the 
height of the top of the door, and on this shelf stood 
sundry platters, bottles, and dishes for the use of the com- 
munity. Underneath the shelf various long wooden pegs 
projected from the wall ; they were each about a foot and 
a half long, and on them hung the Abyssinian manu- 
scripts, of which this curious library was entirely com- 

The books of Abyssinia are bound in the usual way, 
sometimes in red leather and sometimes in wooden boards, 
which are occasionally elaborately carved in rude and 


coarse devices ; they are then enclosed in a case, tied up 
with leather thongs ; to this case is attached a strap for 
the convenience of carrying the volume over the shoulders, 
and by these straps the books were hung to the wooden 
pegs, three or four on a peg, or more if the books were 
small : their usual size was that of a small, very thick 
quarto. The appearance of the room, fitted up in this 
style, together with the presence of various long staves, 
such as the monks of all the Oriental churches lean upon 
at the time of prayer, resembled less a library than a 
barrack or guard-room, where the soldiers had hung their 
knapsacks and cartridge-boxes against the wall. 

All the members of this church militant could read 
fluently out of their own books, which is more than the 
Copts could do in whose monastery they were sojourning. 
Two or three, with whom I spoke, were intelligent men, 
although not much enlightened as to the affairs of this 
world : the perfume of their leather garments and oily 
bodies was, however, rather too powerful for my olfactory 
nerves, and after making a slight sketch of their library 
I was glad to escape into the open air of the beautiful 
garden, where I luxuriated in the shade of the palms and 
the pomegranates. The strange costumes and wild appear- 
ance of these black monks, and the curious arrangement 
of their library, the uncouth sounds of their singing and 
howling, and the clash of their cymbals in the ancient 
convent of the Natron lakes, formed a scene such as I 
believe few Europeans have witnessed. 

The labour required to write an Abyssinian book is 
immense, and sometimes many years are consumed in the 


preparation of a single volume. They are almost all 
written upon skins ; the only one not written upon vellum 
that I have met with is in my own possession ; it is on charta 
bombycina. The ink which they use is composed of gum, 
lampblack, and water. It is jet black, and keeps its 
colour for ever : indeed in this respect all Oriental inks 
are infinitely superior to ours, and they have the addi- 
tional advantage of not being corrosive or injurious either 
to the pen or paper. Their pen is the reed commonly 
used in the East, only the nib is. made sharper than that 
which is required to write the Arabic character. The 
ink-horn is usually the small end of a cow's horn, which 
is stuck into the ground at the feet of the scribe. In the 
most ancient Greek frescos and illuminations this kind of 
ink-horn is the one generally represented, and it seems to 
have been usually inserted in a hole in the writing-desk : 
no writing-desk, however, is in use among the children of 
Habesh. Seated upon the ground, the square piece ofj 
thick greasy vellum is held upon the knee or on the palm 
of the left hand. 

The Abyssinian alphabet consists of 8 times 26 letters, 
208 characters in all, and these are each written distinctly 
and separately like the letters of an European printed 
book. They have no cursive writing; each letter is 
therefore painted, as it were, with the reed pen, and as 
the scribe finishes each he usually makes a horrible face 
and gives a triumphant flourish with his pen. Thus he 
goes on letter by letter, and before he gets to the end of 
the first line he is probably in a perspiration from his 
nervous apprehension of the importance of his undertake 


ing. One page is a good day's work, and when he has 
done it he generally, if he is not too stiff, follows the cus- 
tom of all little Arab boys, and swings his head or his 
body from side to side, keeping time to a sort of nasal 
recitative, without the help of which it would seem that 
few can read even a chapter of the Koran, although they 
may know it by heart. 

Some of these manuscripts are adorned with the 
quaintest and grimmest illuminations conceivable. The 
colours are composed of various ochres. In general the 
outlines of the figures are drawn first with the pen. The 
paint brush is made by chewing the end of a reed till it is 
reduced to filaments and then nibbling it into a proper 
form : the paint brushes of the ancient Egyptians were 
made in the same way, and excellent brooms for common 
purposes are made at Cairo by beating the thick end of a 
palm-branch till the fibres are separated from the pith, the 
part above, which is not beaten, becoming the handle of 
the broom. The Abyssinian having nibbled and chewed 
his reed till he thinks it will do, proceeds to fill up the 
spaces between the inked outlines with his colours. The 
Blessed Virgin is usually dressed in blue ; the complexion 
of the figures is a brownish red, and those in my posses- 
sion have a curious cast of the eyes, which gives them a 
very cunning look. St. John, in a MS. which I have 
now before me, is represented with woolly hair, and has 
two marks or gashes on each side of his face, in accord- 
ance with the Abyssinian or Gall a custom of cutting 
through the skin of the face, breast, and arms, so as to 
leave an indelible mark. This is done in youth, and is 


said to preserve the patient from several diseases. The 
colours are mixed up with the yolk of an egg, and the 
numerous mistakes and slips of the brush are corrected 
by a wipe from a wet finger or thumb, which is generally 
kept ready in the artist's mouth during the operation ; and 
it is lucky if he does not give it a bite in the agony of 
composition, when with an unsteady hand the eye of some 
famous saint is smeared all over the nose by an unfortu- 
nate swerve of the nibbled reed. 

It is not often, however, that the arts of drawing and 
painting are thus ruthlessly mangled on the pages of their 
books, and notwithstanding the disadvantages under 
which the writers labour, some of these manuscripts are 
beautifully written, and are worthy of being compared 
with the best specimens of calligraphy in any language. 
I have a MS. containing the book of Enoch, and several 
books of the Old Testament, which is remarkable for the 
perfection of its writing, the straightness of the lines, and 
equal size and form of the characters throughout : pro- 
bably many years were required to finish it. The binding 
is of wooden boards, not sawn or planed, but chopped 
apparently out of a tree or a block of hard wood, a task 
of patience and difficulty which gives evidence of the 
enthusiasm and goodwill which have been displayed in 
the production of a work, m toiling upon which the pious 
man in the simplicity of his heart doubtless considered that 
he was labouring for the honour of the church, ad mojo* 
rem Dei gloriam. It was this feeling which in the middle 
ages produced all those glorious works of art which are 
the admiration of modern times, and its total absence now 
is deeply to be deplored in our own country. 


Having satiated my curiosity as to the Abyssinian 
monks and their curious library, I returned to my own 
room, where I was presently joined by the abbot and his 
companion, who came for the promised bottle of rosoglio, 
which they now required the more to keep up their spirits 
on finding that the box of treasure was only a large old 
book. They murmured and talked to themselves between 
the cups of rosoglio, and so great was their disappointment 
that it was some time before they recovered the equilibri- 
um of their minds. " You found no treasure," I remarked, 
" but I am a lover of old books ; let me have the big one 
which you thought was a box and the others which I have 
brought out with me, and I will give you a certain number 
of piastres in exchange. By this arrangement we shall 
be both of us contented, for the money will be useful to 
you, and I should be glad to carry away the books as a 
memorial of my visit to this interesting spot." " Ah !" 
said the abbot. " Another cup of rosoglio," said I; " help 
yourself." " How much will you give V 9 asked the 
abbot. " How much do you want ?" said I ; " all the 
money I have with me is at your service." " How much 
is that !" he inquired. Out came the bag of money, and 
the agreeable sound of the clinking of the pieces of gold 
or dollars, I forget which they were, had a soothing effect 
upon the nerves of the blind man, and in short the bottle 
and the bargain were concluded at the same moment 

The Coptic and Syriac manuscripts were stowed away 
in one side of a great pair of saddle-bags. " Now," said 
I, " we will put these in the other side, and you shall take 
it out and see the Arabs place it on the camel." We 


could not by any packing or shifting get all the books into 
the bag, and the two monks would not let me make 
another parcel, lest, as I understood, the rest of the 
brethren should discover what it was, and claim their 
share of the spoil. In this dreadful dilemma I looked at 
each of the books, not knowing which to leave behind, but 
seeing that the quarto was the most imperfect, I abandoned 
it, and I have now reason to believe, on seeing the 
manuscripts of the British Museum, that this was the 
famous book with the date of a. d. 411, the most precious 
acquisition to any library that has been made in modern 
times, with the exception, as I conceive, of some in my 
own collection. It is, however, a satisfaction to think that 
this book, which contains some lost epistles of St. Ignatius, 
has not been thrown away, but has fallen into better 
hands than mine. 




The Convent of the Pulley — Its inaccessible position — Difficult 
landing on the bank of the Nile — Approach to the Convent 
through the Rocks — Description of the Convent and its In- 
habitants — Plan of the Church — Books and MSS. — Ancient 
excavations — Stone Quarries and ancient Tombs— Alarm of the 
Copts — Their ideas of a Sketch-book. 

The Coptic monasteries were usually built in desert 
or inaccessible places, with a view to their defence in 
troubled times, or in the hope of their escaping the ob- 
servation of marauding parties, who were not likely to 
take the trouble of going much out of their way unless 
they had assured hopes of finding something better 
worth sacking than a poor convent. The access to 
Der el Adra, the Convent of the Virgin, more commonly 
known by the name of the Convent of the Pulley, is very 
singular. This monastery is situated on the top of the 
rocks of Gebel el terr, where a precipice above 200 feet 
in height is washed at its base by the waters of the Nile. 
When I visited this monastery on the 19th of February, 
1838, there was a high wind, which rendered the 
management of my immense boat, above 80 feet long, 
somewhat difficult ; and we were afraid of being dashed 
against the rocks if we ventured too near them in our 
attempt to land at the foot of the precipice. The monks, 
who were watching our manoeuvres from above, all at 


oQce disappeared, and presently several of them made 
their appearance on the shore, issuing in a complete state 
of nudity from a cave or cleft in the face of the rock. 
These worthy brethren jumped one after another into the 
Nile, and assisted the sailors to secure the boat with ropes 
and anchors from the force of the wind. They swam 
like Newfoundland dogs, and, finding that it was 
impossible for the boat to reach the land, two of the 
reverend gentlemen took me on their shoulders, and, 
wading through a shallow part of the river, brought me 
safely to the foot of the rock. When we got there I 
could not perceive any way to ascend to the monastery, 
but, following the abbot, I scrambled over the broken 
rocks to the entrance of the cave. This was a narrow 
fissure where the precipice had been split by some con* 
vulsion of nature, the opening being about the size of 
the inside of a capacious chimney. The abbot crept 
in at a hole at the bottom: he was robed in a long 
dark blue shirt, the front of which he took up and 
held in his teeth ; and telling me to observe where he 
placed his feet, he began to climb up the cleft with con. 
siderable agility. A few preliminary lessons from a 
chimney-sweep would now have been of the greatest 
service to me; but in this branch of art my education 
had been neglected, and it was with no small difficulty 
that I climbed up after the abbot, whom I saw striding 
and sprawling in the attitude of a spread eagle above my 
head. My slippers soon fell off upon the head of a man 
under me, whom, on looking down, I found to be the reis, 
or captain of my boat, whose immense turban formed the 


whole of his costume. At least twenty men were 
scrambling and puffing underneath him, most of them 
having their clothes tied in a bundle on their heads, 
where they had secured them when they swam or waded 
to the shore. Arms and legs were stretched out in all 
manner of attitudes, the forms of the more distant 
climbers being lost in the gloom of the narrow cavern up 
which we were advancing, the procession being led by 
the unrobed ecclesiastic. Having climbed up about 120 
feet, we emerged in a fine perspiration upon a narrow 
ledge of the rock on the face of the precipice, which had 
an unpleasant slope towards the Nile. It was as slippery 
as glass ; and I felt glad that I had lost my shoes, as I 
had a firmer footing without them. We turned to 
the right, and climbing a projection of the rock seven 
or eight feet high — rather a nervous proceeding at such 
a height to those who were unaccustomed to it — 
we gained a more level space, from which a short 
steep pathway brought us to the top of the precipice, 
whence I looked down with much self-complacency 
upon my companion who was standing on the deck 
of the vessel. 

The convent stands about two hundred paces to the 
north of the place where we ascended. It had been origi- 
nally built of small square stones of Roman workmanship ; 
but, having fallen into decay, it had been repaired with 
mud and sunburnt bricks. Its ground plan was nearly a 
square, and its general appearance outside was that of a 
large pound or a small kitchen garden, the walls being 
about 20 feet high and each side of the square extending 


about 200 feet, without any windows or architectural deco- 
ration. I entered by a low doorway on the side towards 
the cliff, and found myself in a yard of considerable size 
full of cocks, hens, women, and children, who were all 
cackling and talking together at the top of their shrill 
voices. A large yellow-coloured dog, who was sleeping 
in the sunshine in the midst of all this din, was awakened 
by its cessation as I entered. He greeted my arrival with 
a growl, upon which he was assailed with a volley of 
stones and invectives by the ladies whom he had intended 
to protect. Every man, woman, and child came out to 
have a peep at the stranger ; but when my numerous fol- 
lowers, many in habiliments of the very slightest descrip- 
tion, crowded into the court, the ladies took fright, and 
there was a general rush into the house, the old women 
hiding their faces without a moment's delay, but the 
younger ones taking more time in the adjustment of their 
veils. When peace was in some measure restored, and 
the poor dog had been pelted into a hole, the abbot, who 
had now permitted his long shirt to resume its usual folds, 
conducted me to the church, which was speedily filled 
with the crowd. It was interesting from its great anti- 
quity, having been founded, as they told me, by a rich 
lady of the name of Halane, who was the daughter of a 
certain Kostandi, king of Roum. The church is partly 
subterranean, being built in the recesses of an ancient 
stone-quarry ; the other parts of it are of stone plastered 
over. The roof is flat and is formed of horizontal beams 
of palm trees, upon which a terrace of reeds and earth is 
laid. The height of the interior is about 25 feet. On 


entering the door we had to descend a flight of narrow 
steps which led into a side aisle about ten feet wide, and 
which is divided from the nave by octagon columns of 
great thickness supporting the walls of a sort of clerestory. 
The columns were surmounted by heavy square plinths 
almost in the Egyptian style. 

As I consider this church to be interesting from its being 
half a catacomb, or cave, and one of the earliest Christian 
buildings which has preserved its originality, I subjoin a 
plan of it, by which it will be seen that it is constructed 
on the principle of a Latin basilica, as the buildings of the 
Empress Helena usually were ; the Byzantine style of 
architecture, the plan of which partook of the form of a 
Greek cross, being a later invention; for the earliest 
Christian churches were not cruciform, and seldom had 
transepts, nor were they built with any reference to the 
points of the compass.* 

The ancient divisions of the church are also more strict- 
ly preserved in this edifice than in the churches of the 
West; the priests or monks standing above the steps 
(marked No. 5), the celebrant of the sacrament only 

* It is much to he desired that some competent person should write 
a small cheap book, with plates or wood-cuts explaining what an early 
Christian church was ; what the ceremonies, ornaments, vestures, and 
liturgy were at the time when the Church of our Lord was formally 
established by the Emperor Constantino: for the numerous well- 
meaning authors who have written on the restoration of our older 
churches, appear to me to be completely in the dark. Gothic is not 
Christian architecture — it is Roman Catholic architecture: the ves- 
tures of English ecclesiastics are not restorations of early simplicity — 
they are modern inventions taken from German collegiate dresses 
which have nothing to do with religion. 

Chap. IX. 



1. Altar. 

2. Apsis, apparently cut oat of the 


3. Two Corinthian columns. 

4. Wooden partitions of lattice-work, 

about 10 feet high. 

5. Steps leading up to the sanctuary. 

6. Two three-quarter columns. 

7. Eight columns.* 

8. Dark room cat out of the rock 
(there is another corresponding lo 
it under the stepsj.t 

9. Steps leading down into the church 
10. Screen before the Altar. 

* The only early church in which the columns are continued on 
the end opposite to the altar, where the doorway is usually situated, is 
the Cathedral of Messina. The effect is very good, and takes off from 
the baldness usually observable at that end of a basilica. The early 
Coptic churches have no porch or narthex, an essential part of an ori- 
ginal Greek church. 

t This curious old sunken oratory bears a resemblance in many 
points to the fine church of St. Agnese, at Rome, where the ground 
has been excavated down to the level of the catacomb in which the 
holy martyr's body reposes. The long straight flight of steps down 
to the lower level are also similar in these two very ancient churches, 
although the Church of Der-el-Adra is poor and mean, whilst that of 
St. Agnese is a superb edifice, and is famous for being the first basilica 
in which a gallery is found over the side aisles. This gallery was set 
apart for the women, as in the oriental churches of St. Sophia at Con- 
stantinople, and perhaps, also, of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. 


08 BOOKS AND MSS. Chap. IX. 

going behind the screen (No. 10); the bulk of the congre. 
gation stand, there are no seats below the steps (No. 5), 
and the place for the women is behind the screen marked 
No. 4. The church is very dimly lighted by small aper- 
tures in the walls of the clerestory, above the columns, 
and the part about the apsis is nearly dark in the middle 
of the day, candles being always necessary ♦ during the 
reading of the service. The two Corinthian columns are 
of brick, plastered ; they are not fluted, but are of good 
proportions and appear to be original. The apsis is 
of regular Grecian or Roman architecture, and is orna- 
mented with six pilasters, and three niches in which are 
kept the books, cymbals, candlesticks, and other things 
which are used for the daily service. Here I found 
twenty-three manuscript books, fifteen in Coptic with 
Arabic translations, for the Coptic language is now under- 
stood by few, and eight Arabic manuscripts. The Coptic 
books were all liturgies : one of them, a folio, was orna- 
mented with a large illumination, intended to represent 
the Virgin and the infant Saviour ; it is almost the only 
specimen of Coptic art that I ever met with in a book, and 
its style and execution are so poor, that, perhaps, it is for- 
tunate that they should be so rare. The Arabic books, 
which, as well as the Coptic, were all on cotton-paper, 
consisted of extracts from the New Testament and lives 
of the saints. 

I had been told that there was a great chest bound with 
iron, which was kept in a vault in this monastery, full of 
ancient books on vellum, and which was not to be opened 
without the consent of the Patriarch ; I could, however, 


make out nothing of this story, but it does not follow that 
this chest of ancient manuscripts does not exist ; for, sur- 
rounded as I was by crowds of gaping Copts and Arabs, 1 
could not expect the abbot to be very communicative ; and 
they have from long oppression acquired such a habit of 
denying the fact of their having anything in their posses- 
sion, that, perhaps, there may still be treasures here which 
some future traveller may discover. 

While I was turning over the books, the contents of 
which I was able to decypher, from the similarity of the 
Coptic to the Greek alphabet, the people were very much 
astonished at my erudition, which appeared to them almost 
miraculous. They whispered to each other, and some 
said I must be a foreign Copt, who had returned to the 
land of his fathers. They asked my servant all manner 
of questions ; but when he told them that he did not be- 
lieve I knew a word of Coptic, their astonishment was 
increased to fear. I must be a magician, they said, and 
some kept a sharp look-out for the door, to which there 
was an immediate rush when I turned round. The whole 
assembly were puzzled, for in their simplicity they were 
not aware that people sometimes pore over books, and 
read them too, without understanding them, in other lan- 
guages besides Coptic. 

We emerged from the subterranean church, which, 
being half sunk in the earth and surrounded by buildings, 
had nothing remarkable in its exterior architecture, and 
ascended to the terrace on the roof of the convent, whence 
we had a view of numerous ancient stone quarries in the 
desert to the east. They appeared to be of immense 


extent; the convent it9elf and two adjoining burial- 
grounds were all ensconced in the ancient limestone exca- 

I am inclined to think, that although all travellers in 
Egypt pass along the river below this convent, few have 
visited its interior. It is now more a village than a mo- 
nastery, properly speaking, as it is inhabited by numerous 
Coptic families who are not connected with the monks. 
These poor people were so surprised at my appearance, 
and watched all my actions with such intense curiosity, 
that I imagine they had scarcely ever seen a stranger 
before. They crowded every place where I was likely 
to pass, staring and gaping, and chattering to each other. 
Being much pressed with the throng in the court-yard, I 
made a sudden spring towards one of the little girls who 
was foremost in the crowd, uttering a shout at the same 
time as if I was going to seize her as she stood gazing 
open-mputhed at me. She screamed and tumbled down 
with fright, and the whole multitude of women and chil- 
dren scampered off as fast as their legs could carry them. 
Some fell down, others tumbled over them, making an 
indescribable confusion: but being reassured by the 
laughter of my party, they soon stopped, and began 
laughing and talking with greater energy than before. 
At length I took refuge in the room of the superior, who 
gave me some coffee, with spices in it ; and soon after- 
wards I took leave of this singular community. 

We walked to some quarries about two miles off to 
the north-east, which well repaid our visit. The rocks 
were cut into the most extraordinary forms. There were 


several grottoes, and also an ancient tomb with hierogly- 
phics sculptured on the rock. Among these I saw the 
names of Rameses II. and some other kings. Near this 
tomb is a large tablet on which is a bas-relief of a king 
making an offering to a deity with the head of a crocodile, 
whose name, according to Wilkinson, was Savak ; he was 
worshipped at Ombos and Thebes, but was held in such 
small respect at Dendera that the inhabitants of that place 
made war upon the men of Ombos, and ate one of their 
prisoners in emulation probably of the god he worship, 
ped. Indeed, they appear to have considered the inhabit- 
ants of that city to have been a sort of vermin, which it 
was incumbent upon all sensible Egyptians to destroy 
whenever they had an opportunity. 

In one place among the quarries a large rock has been 
left standing by itself with two apertures, like doorways, 
cut through it, giving it the resemblance of a propylon or 
the front of a house. It is not more than ten feet thick, 
although it is eighty or ninety feet long, and fifty high. 
Near it a huge slab projects horizontally from the preci- 
pice, supported at its outer edge by a single column. 
Some of the Copts, whose curiosity appeared to be insa- 
tiable, had followed us to these quarries, for the mere 
pleasure of staring at us. One of them, observing me 
making a sketch, came and peeped over my shoulder. 
" This Frank," said he to his friends, " has got a book 
that eats all these stones, and our monastery besides." 
" Ah ! " said the other, " I suppose there are no stones in 
his country, so he wants to take some of ours away to show 
his countrymen what fine things we have here in Egypt ; 
there is no place like Egypt, after all. Mashallah !" 




Ruined Monastery in the Necropolis of Thebes — " Mr. Hay's 
Tomb" — The Coptic Carpenter — His acquirements and troubles 
— He agrees to show the MSS. belonging to the ruined Monas- 
tery, which are under his charge — Night visit to the Tomb in 
which they are concealed — Perils of the way — Description of 
the Tomb — Probably in former times a Christian Church — 
Examination of the Coptic MSS. — Alarming interruption — 
Hurried flight from the Evil Spirits — Fortunate escape — 
Appearance of the Evil Spirit — Observations on Ghost Stories 
— The Legend of the Old Woman of Berkeley considered. 

On a rocky hill, perforated on all sides by the violated 
sepulchres of the ancient Egyptians, in the great Necro- 
polis of Thebes, not far from the ruins of the palace and 
temple of Medinet Habou, stand the crumbling walls of 
an ol(J Coptic monastery, which I was told had been inha- 
bited, almost within the memory of man, by a small com- 
munity of Christian monks. I was living at this period 
in a tomb, which was excavated in the side of the preci- 
pice, above Sheick Abd el Gournoo. It had been rendered 
habitable by some slight alterations, and a little garden 
was made on the terrace in front of it, whence the view 
was very remarkable. The whole of the vast ruins of 
Thebes were stretched out below it ; whilst, beyond the 
mighty Nile, the huge piles of Luxor and Carnac loomed 
dark and mysterious in the distance, which was bounded 
by the arid chain of the Arabian mountains, the outline 


of their wild tops showing clear and hard against the 
cloudless sky. This habitation was known by the name 
of " Mr. Hay's tomb." The memory of this gentleman 
is held in the highest honour and reverence by the vil- 
lagers of the surrounding districts, who look back to the 
time of his residence among them as the only satisfactory 
period of their miserable existence. 

One of the numerous admirers of Mr. Hay, among the 
poorer inhabitants of the neighbourhood, was a Coptic 
carpenter, a man of no small natural genius and talent, 
who in any other country would have risen above the 
sphere of his comrades if any opportunity of distinguish- 
ing himself had offered. He could read and write Coptic 
and Arabic ; he had some knowledge of astronomy, and 
some said of magic also ; and he was a very tolerable 
carpenter, although the only tools which he was able to 
procure were of the roughest sort. In all these accom- 
plishments he was entirely self-taught ; while his poverty 
was such that his costume consisted of nothing but a short 
shirt, or tunic, made of a homespun fabric of goat's hair 
or wool, and a common felt skull-cap, with some rags 
twisted round it for a turban. With higher acquirements 
than the governor of the district, the poor Copt was hardly 
able to obtain bread to eat ; and indeed it was only from 
the circumstance of his being a Christian that he and the 
other males of his family were not swept away in the 
conscription which has depopulated Egypt under the pre- 
sent government more than all the pillage and massacres 
and internal feuds of the followers of the Mameluke 


On those numerous occasions when the carpenter had 
nothing else to do, he used to come and talk to me ; and 
endeavour to count up, upon his fingers, how often he had 
u eat stick ;" that is, had heen beater by one Turkish 
officer or another for his inability to pay the tax to the 
Pasha, the tooth-money to some kawass, the forced contri- 
bution to the Nazir, or some other exj acted or unexpected 
call upon his empty pocket, — an appendage to his dress, 
by the by, which he did not possess ; for having nothing 
in the world to put in it, a pocket was clearly of no use to 
him. The carpenter related to me the history of the 
mined Coptic monastery ; and I found that its library was 
still in existence. It was carefully concealed from the 
Mahomedans, as a sacred treasure; and my friend the 
carpenter was the guardian of the volumes belonging to 
his fallen church. After some persuasion he agreed, in 
consideration of my being a Christian, to let me see them ; 
but he said I must go to the place where they were con- 
cealed at night, in order that no one might follow our 
steps ; and he further stipulated that none of the Maho- 
medan servants should accompany us, but that I should 
go alone with him. I agreed to all this; and on the 
appointed night I sallied forth with the carpenter after 
dark. There were not many stars visible ; and we had 
only just light enough to see our way across the plain of 
Thebes, or rather among the low hills and narrow valleys 
above the plain, which are so entirely honeycombed with 
ancient tombs and mummy pits that they resemble a 
rabbit warren on a large scale. Skulls and bones were 
strewed on our path ; and often at the mouths of tomb* the 


night wind would raise up fragments of the bandages 
which the sacrilegious hand of the Frankish spoilers of 
the dead had torn from the bodies of the Egyptian mum- 
mies in search of the scarabaei, amulets, and ornaments 
which are found upon the breast of the deceased subjects 
of the Pharaohs. 

Away we went stumbling over ruins, and escaping nar- 
rowly the fate of those who descend into the tomb before 
their time. Sometimes we heard a howl, which the car- 
penter said came from a hyena, prowling like ourselves 
among the graves, though on a very different errand. Wo 
kept on our way, by many a dark ruin and yawning cave, 
breaking our shins against the fallen stones until I was 
almost tired of the journey, which in the darkness seemed 
interminable ; nor had I any idea where the carpenter was 
leading me. At last, after a fatiguing walk, we descended 
suddenly into a place something like a gravel pit, one side 
of which was closed by the perpendicular face of a low 
cliff, in which a doorway half filled up with rubbish 
betokened the existence of an ancient tomb. By the side 
of this doorway sat a little boy, whom I discovered by the 
light of the moon, which had just risen, to be the carpen- 
ter's son, an intelligent lad, who often came to pay me a 
visit in company with his father. It was here that the 
Coptic manuscripts were concealed, and it was a spot well 
chosen for the purpose ; for although I thought I had wan- 
dered about the Necropolis of Thebes in every direction, I 
had never stumbled upon this place before, neither could I 
ever find it afterwards, although I rode in that direction 
several times. 



1 now produced from my pocket three candles, which 
the carpenter had desired me to bring, one for him, one for 
his son, and one for myself. Having lit them, we entered 
into the doorway of the tomb, and passing through a short 
passage, found ourselves in a great sepulchral hall. The 
earth and sand which had been blown into the entrance 
formed an inclined plain, sloping downwards to another 
door sculptured with hieroglyphics, through which we 
passed into a second chamber, on the other side of which 
was a third doorway, leading into a magnificent subterra- 
nean hall, divided into three aisles by four square 
columns, two on each side. There may have been six 
columns, but I think there were only four. The walls 
and columns, or rather square piers which supported 
the roof, retained the brilliant white which is so much to 
be admired in the tombs of the kings and other stately 
sepulchres. On the walls were various hieroglyphics, 
and on the square piers tall figures of the gods of the 
infernal regions — Kneph, Khonso, and Osiris — were por- 
trayed in brilliant colours, with their immense caps or 
crowns, and the heads of the jackal and other beasts. At 
the further end of this chamber was a stone altar, standing 
upon one or two steps, in an apsis or semicircular recess. 
As this is not usual in Egyptian tombs, I have since 
thought that this had probably been altered by the Copts 
in early times, and that, like the Christians of the West 
in the days of the persecution, they had met in secret in 
the tombs for the celebration of their rites, and had made 
use of this hall as a church, in the same way as we see 
the remains of chapels and places of worship in tho 


catacombs of Rome and Syracuse. The inner court 
of the Temple of Medinet Habou has also been converted 
into a Christian church; and the worthy Copts have 
daubed over the beautifully executed pictures of Rameses 
II. with a coat of plaster, upon which they have painted 
the grim figures of St. George, and various old frightful 
saints and hermits, whose uncouth forms would almost 
give one the idea of their having served for a system of 
idolatry much less refined than the worship of the ancient 
gods of the heathen, whose places they have usurped in 
these gigantic temples. 

The Coptic manuscripts, of which I was in search, were 
lying upon the steps of the altar, except one, larger than 
the rest, which was placed upon the altar itself. They 
were about eight or nine in number, all brown and musty 
looking books, written on cotton paper, or charta bomby- 
cina, a material in use in very early times. An edict or 
charter, on paper, exists, or at least did exist two years 
ago, in the museum of the Jesuits' College, called the 
Colleggio Romano, at Rome : its date was of the sixth 
century ; and I have a Coptic manuscript written on paper 
of this kind, which was finished, as appears by a note at 
the end, in the year 1018 ; these are the oldest dates that 
I have met with in any manuscripts on paper. 

Having found these ancient books we proceeded to 
examine their contents, and to accomplish this at our ease, 
we stuck the candles on the ground, and the carpenter and 
I sat down before them, while his son brought us the 
volumes from the steps of the altar, one by one. 

The first which came to hand was a dusty quarto, smell. 


ing of incense, and well spotted with yellow wax, with all 
its leaves dogs-eared or worn ronnd with constant use : 
this was a manuscript of the lesser festivals. Another 
appeared to be of the same kind ; a third was also a book 
for the church service. We puzzled over the next two or 
three, which seemed to be martyrologies, or lives of the 
saints ; but while we were poring over them, we thought 
we heard a noise. " Oh ! father of hammers," said I to 
the carpenter, "I think I heard a noise: what could 
it be ? — I thought I heard something move." " Did you, 
hawaja V 9 (O merchant), said the carpenter ; it " must 
have been my son moving the books, for what else could 
there be here ? — No one knows of this tomb or of the holy 
manuscripts which it contains. Surely there can be 
nothing here to make a noise, for are we not here alone, a 
hundred feet under the earth, in a place where no one 
comes? — It is nothing: certainly it is nothing;" and so 
saying, he lifted up one of the candles and peered about 
in the darkness ; but as there was nothing to be seen, and 
all was silent as the grave, he sat down again, and at our 
leisure we completed our examination of all the books 
which lay upon the steps. 

They proved to be all church books, liturgies for differ- 
ent seasons, or homilies ; and not historical, nor of any 
particular interest, either from their age or subject. There 
now remained only the great book upon the altar, a pon- 
derous quarto, bound either in brown leather or wooden 
boards ; and this the carpenter's son with difficulty lifted 
from its place, and laid it down before us on the ground ; 
but as he did so, we heard the noise again. The carpen- 


ter and I looked at each other : he turned pale — perhaps I 
did so too ; and we looked over our shoulders in a sort of 
anxious, nervous kind of way, expecting to see something 
— we did not know what. However, we saw nothing; 
and, feeling a little ashamed, I again settled myself before 
the three candle-ends, and opened the book, which was 
written in large black characters of unusual size. As I 
bent over the huge volume, to see what it was about, sud- 
denly there arose a sound somewhere in the cavern, but 
from whence it came I could not comprehend ; it seemed 
all round us at the same moment. There was no room 
for doubt now : it was a fearful howling, like the roar of a 
hundred wild beasts. The carpenter looked aghast : the 
tall and grisly figures of the Egyptian gods seemed to 
stare at us from the walls. I thought of Cornelius Agrippa, 
and felt a gentle perspiration coming on which would have 
betokened a favourable crisis in a fever. Suddenly the 
dreadful roar ceased, and as its echoes died away in the 
tomb, we felt considerably relieved, and were beginning 
to try and put a good face upon the matter, when, to our 
unutterable horror, it began again, and waxed louder and 
louder, as if legions of infernal spirits were let loose upon 
us. We could stand this no longer : the carpenter and I 
jumped up from the ground, and his son in his terror stum- 
bled over the great Coptic manuscript, and fell upon the 
candles, which were all put out in a moment ; his screams 
were now added to the uproar which resounded in the 
cave ; seeing the twinkling of a star through the vista of 
the two outer chambers, we all set off as hard as we could 
run, our feelings of alarm being increased to desperation 


when we perceived that something was chasing us in the 
darkness, while the roar seemed to increase every moment. 
How we did tear along ! The devil take the hindmost 
seemed about to be literally fulfilled ; and we raised stifling 
ilouds of dust, as we scrambled up the steep slope which 
led to the outer door. " So then," thought I, " the stories 
of gins, and ghouls, and goblins, that I have read of and 
never believed, must be true after all, and in this city of 
the dead it has been our evil lot to fall upon a haunted 
tomb !" 

Breathless and bewildered, the carpenter and I 
bolted out of this infernal palace into the open air, 
mightily relieved at our escape from the darkness and 
the terrors of the subterranean vaults. We had not 
been out a moment, and had by no means collected 
our ideas, before our alarm was again excited to its 
utmost pitch. 

The evil one came forth in bodily shape, and stood 
revealed to our eyes distinctly in the pale light of the 

While we were gazing upon the appearance, the 
carpenter's son, whom we had quite forgotten in our 
hurry, came creeping out of the doorway of the tomb 
upon his hands and knees. 

" Why, father !" said he, after a moment's silence, 
" if that is not old Fatima's donkey, which has been 
lost these two days ! It is lucky that we have found 
it, for it must have wandered into this tomb, and it 
might have been starved if we had not met with it 


The carpenter looked rather ashamed of the adventure; 
and as for myself, though I was glad that nothing worse 
had come of it, I took comfort in the reflection that J was 
not the first person who had been alarmed by the pro- 
ceedings of an ass. 

I have related the history of this adventure because 
I think that, on some foundation like this, many well- 
accredited ghost stories may have been founded. 
Numerous legends and traditions, which appear to be 
supernatural or miraculous, and the truth of which has 
been attested and sworn to by credible witnesses, have 
doubtless arisen out of facts which actually did occur, 
but of which some essential particulars have been 
either concealed, or had escaped notice ; and thus many 
marvellous histories have gone abroad, which are so 
well attested, that although common sense forbids their 
being believed, they cannot be proved to be false. In 
this case, if the donkey had not fortunately come out 
and shown himself, I should certainly have returned to 
Europe half impressed with the belief that something 
supernatural had occurred, which was in some myste- 
rious manner connected with the opening of the magic 
volume which we had taken from the altar in the tomb. 
The echoes of the subterranean cave so altered the 
sound of the donkey's bray, that I never should have 
discovered that these fearful sounds had so undignified 
an origin; a story never loses by telling, and with a 
little gradual exaggeration it would soon have become 
one of the best accredited supernatural histories in the 


The well-known story of the ojd woman of Berkeley 
has been read with wonder and dread for at least four 
hundred years : it is to be found in early manuscripts ; 
it is related by Olaus Magnus, and is to be seen illus- 
trated by a woodcut, both in the German and Latin 
editions of the ' Nuremberg Chronicle/ which was printed 
in the year 1493. There is no variation in the legend, 
which is circumstantially the same in all these books. 
Without doubt it was partly founded upon fact, or, as 
in the case of the story of the Theban tomb, some 
circumstances have been omitted which make all the 
difference; and a natural though perhaps extraordinary 
occurrence has been handed down for centuries, as a 
fearful instance of the power of the evil one in this world 
over those who have given themselves up to the practice 
of tremendous crimes. 

There are many supernatural stories, which we are 
certain cannot by any possibility be true; but which 
nevertheless are as well attested, and apparently as 
fully proved, as any facts in the most veracious history. 
Under circumstances of alarm or temporary halluci- 
nation people frequently believe that they have had 
supernatural visitations. Even the tricks of conjurers, 
which have been witnessed by a hundred persons at a 
time, are totally incomprehensible to the uninitiated ; 
and in the middle ages, when these practices were 
resorted to for religious or political ends, it is more 
than probable that many occurrences which were sup- 
posed to be supernatural might have been explained, if all 
the circumstances connected with them had been fairly 
and openly detailed by an impartial witness. 




The White Monastery— Abou Shenood — Devastations of the Ma- 
melukes — Description of the Monastery— Different styles of its 
exterior and interior Architecture— Its ruinous condition — De- 
scription of the „ Church — The Baptistery— Ancient rites of 
Baptism— The Library— Modern Architecture— The Church of 
San Francesco at Rimini— The Red Monastery— Alarming ren- 
contre with an armed party — Feuds between the native Tribes — 
Faction fights — Eastern Story Tellers— Legends of the Desert — 
Abraham and Sarah — Legendary Life of Moses— Arabian Story- 
tellers — Attention of their Audience. 

Mounting our noble Egyptian steeds, or in other words 
having engaged a sufficient number of little braying 
donkeys, which the peasants brought down to the river 
side, and put our saddles on them, we cantered in an hour 
and a half from the village of Souhag to the White Mo- 
nastery, which is known to the Arabs by the name of Derr 
abou Shenood. Who the great Abou Shenood had the 
honour to be, and what he had done to be canonized, I 
could meet with no one to tell me. He was, I believe, a 
Mahomed an saint, and this Coptic monastery had been in 
some sort placed under the shadow of his protection, in the 
hopes of saving it from the persecutions of the faithful. 
Abou Senood, however, does not appear to have done his 
duty, for the White Monastery has been ruined and sacked 
over and over again. The last outrage upon the unfortu- 
nate monastery occurred about 1812, when the Mamelukes 


who had encamped upon the plains of Itfou, having no 
better occupation, amused themselves by burning all the 
houses, and killing all the people in the neighbourhood. 
Since that time the monks having returned one by one, and 
finding that no one took the trouble to molest them, began 
to repair the convent, the interior of which had been 
gutted by the Mamelukes ; but the immense strength of the 
outer walls had resisted all their efforts to destroy them. 

The peculiarity of this monastery is, that the interior 
was once a magnificent basilica, while the exterior was 
built by the Empress Helena, in the ancient Egyptian 
style. The walls slope inwards towards the summit, 
where they are crowned with a deep overhanging cornice. 
The building is of an oblong shape, about two hundred 
feet in length by ninety wide, very well built, of fine 
blocks of stone ,; it has no windows outside larger than 
loopholes, and these are at a great height from the ground. 
Of these there are twenty on the south side and nine at 
the east end. The monastery stands at the foot of the 
hill, on the edge of the Libyan desert, where the sand 
encroaches on the plain. It looks like the sanctuary, or 
cella, of an ancient temple, and is not unlike the bastion 
of an old-fashioned fortification ; except one solitary doom 
tree, it stands quite alone, and has a most desolate aspect, 
backed, as it is, by the sandy desert, and without any 
appearance of a garden, either within or outside its walls. 
The ancient doorway of red granite, on the south side, has 
been partially closed up, leaving an opening just large 
enough to admit one person at a time. 

The door was closed, and we shouted in vain for admit- 


tance. We then tried the effect of a double knock in the 
Grosvenor Square style with a large stone, but that was 
of no use ; so I got one still larger, and banged away 
at the door with all my might, shouting at the same time 
that we were friends and Christians. After some minutes 
a small voice was heard inside, and several questions being 
satisfactorily answered, we were let in by a monk ; and 
passing through the narrow door, I found myself sur- 
rounded by piles of ruined buildings of various ages, 
among which the tall granite columns of the ancient 
church reared themselves like an avenue on either side 
of the desecrated nave, which is now open to the sky, and 
is used as a promenade for a host of chickens. Some 
goats also were perched upon fragments of ruined walls, 
and looked cunningly at us as we invaded their domain. 
I saw some Coptic women peeping at me from the windows 
of some wretched hovels of mud and brick, which they 
had built up in corners among the ancient ruins like 
swallows' nests. 

There were but three poor priests. The principal one 
led us to the upper part of the Church, which had lately 
been repaired and walled off from the open nave ; and 
enclosed the apsis and transepts, which had been restored 
m some measure, and fitted for the performance of divine 
service. The half domes of the apsis and two transepts, 
which were of well-built masonry, were still entire, and 
the original frescoes remain upon them. Those in the 
transepts are stiff figures of saints ; and in the one over the 
altar is the great figure of the Redeemer, such as is 
usually met with in the mosaics of the Italian basilicas,, 


These apsides are above fifty feet from the ground, which 
gives them a dignity of appearance, and leaves greater 
cause to regret the destruction of the nave, which, with its 
clerestory, must have been still higher. There appear to 
have been fifteen columns on each side of the centre aisle, 
and two at the end opposite the altar, which in this 
instance I believe is at the west end. The roof over the 
part of the east end, which has been fitted up as a church, 
is supported by four square modern piers of plastered 
brick or rubble work. On the side walls, above the altar, 
there are some circular compartments containing paintings 
of the saints ; and near these are two tablets with inscrip- 
tions in black on a white ground. That on the left 
appeared to be in Abyssinian : the one on the other side 
was either Coptic or uncial Greek ; but it was too dark, 
and the tablet was too high, to enable me to make it out. 
There is also a long Greek inscription in red letters on one 
of the modern square piers, which looks as if it was of 
considerable antiquity ; and the whole interior of the 
building bears traces of having been repaired and altered, 
more than once, in ancient times. The richly ornamented 
recesses of the three apsides have been smeared over with 
plaster, on which some tremendously grim saints have 
been portrayed, whose present threadbare appearance 
shows that they have disfigured the walls for several cen- 
turies. Some comparatively modern capitals, of bad 
design, have been placed upon two or three of the granite 
columns of the nave ; and others, which were broken, 
have been patched with brick, plastered and painted to 
"ook like granite. The principal entrance was formerly 


at the west end, where there is a small vestibule, immedi. 
ately within the door of which, on the left hand, is a smaL 
chapel, perhaps the baptistery, about twenty-five feet long 
and still in tolerable preservation. It is a splendid speci- 
men of the richest Roman architecture of the latter empire, 
and is truly an imperial little room. The arched ceiling 
is of stone ; and there are three beautifully ornamented 
niches on each side. The upper end is semicircular, and 
has been entirely covered with a profusion of sculpture in 
panels, cornices, and every kind of architectural enrich- 
ment. When it was entire, and covered with gilding, 
painting, or mosaic, it must have been most gorgeous. 
The altar on such a chapel as this was probably of gold 
set full of gems ; or if it was the baptistery, as I suppose, 
it most likely contained a bath, of the most precious jasper, 
or of some of the more rare kinds of marble, for the 
immersion of the converted heathen, whose entrance into 
the church was not permitted until they had been purified 
with the waters of baptism in a building without the door 
of the house of God ; an appropriate custom, which was 
not broken in upon for ages ; and even then the infant was 
only brought just inside the door, where the font was 
placed on the left hand of the entrance ; a judicious prac- 
tice which is completely set at nought in England, where 
the squalling imp often distracts the attention of the con- 
gregation ; and is finally sprinkled, instead of being 
immersed, the whole ceremony having been so much 
altered and pared down from its original symbolic form, 
that were a Christian of the early ages to return upon the 
»arth, he would be unable to recognise its meaning. 




The conventual library consisted of only half-a-dozen 
well- waxed and well-thumbed liturgies ; but one of the 
priests told me that they boasted formerly of above a hun- 
dred volumes written on leather (gild razali), gazelle 
skins, probably vellum, which were destroyed by the 
Mamelukes during their last pillage of the convent. 

The habitations of the monks, according to the original 
design of this very curious building, were contained in a 
long slip on the south side of the church, where their cells 
were lit by the small loopholes seen from the outside. Of 
these cells none now remain : they must have been 
famously hot, exposed as they were all day long to ttie 
rays of the southern sun; but probably the massive 
thickness of the walls and arched ceilings reduced the 
temperature. There was no court or open space within 
the convent ; the only place where its inhabitants could 
have walked for exercise in the open air was upon the 
flat terrace of the roof, the deck of this ship of St. Peter ; 
for the White Monastery in some respects resembles a 
dismasted man-of-war, anchored in a sea of burning sand. 

In modern times we are not surprised on finding a 
building erected at an immense expense, in which the 
architecture of the interior is totally different from that 
of the exterior. A Brummagem Gothic house is fre- 
quently furnished and ornamented within in what is called 
" a chaste Greek style/ 9 and vice ver*&. A Grecian house 
— that is to say, a square white block, with square holes 
in it for windows, and a portico in front — is sometimes 
inhabited by an antiquarian, who fits it up with Gothic 
furniture, and a Gothic paper designed by a crafty paper- 


hanger in the newest style. But in ancient days it was 
very rare to see such a mixture. I am surprised that the 
architect of the enthusiastic empress did not go on with 
the interior of this building as he had begun the exterior. 
The great hall of Carnac would have afforded him a 
grand example of an aisle with a clerestory, and side 
windows, with stone mullions, which would have answered 
his purpose, in the Egyptian style. The only other in- 
stance of this kind, where two distinct styles of architec- 
ture were employed in the middle ages on the inside and 
outside of the same building, is in the church of St. 
Francesco, at Rimini, which was built by Sigismond 
Malatesta as a last resting-place for himself and his 
friends. He lies in a Gothic shrine within; and the 
bodies of the great men of his day repose in sarcophagi 
of classic forms outside ; each of which stands in the 
recess of a Roman arch, in which style of architecture the 
exterior of the building is erected. 

About two miles to the north of the White Monastery, 
in a small village sheltered by a grove of palms, stands 
another ancient building called the Red Monastery. 

On our return to Souhag we met a party of men on 
foot, who were armed with spears, shields, and daggers, 
and one or two with guns. They were let by a man on 
horseback, who was completely armed with all sorts of 
warlike implements. They stopped us, and began to talk 
to our followers, who were exceedingly civil in their 
behaviour, for the appearance of the party was of a 
doubtful character ; and we felt relieved when we found 
that we were not to be robbed, but that our friends were 


on an expedition against the men of Tahta, who some time 
ago had killed a man belonging to their village, and they 
were going to avenge his death. This was only one detach- 
ment of many that had assembled in the neighbouring 
villages, each headed by its sheick, or the sheick's son, if 
the father was an old man. The numbers engaged in 
this feud amounted, they told us, to between two and three 
hundred men on each side. Every now and then, it 
seems, when they had got in their harvest, they assembled 
to have a fight. Several are wounded, and sometimes a 
few are killed ; in which case, if the numbers of the 
slain are not equal, the feud continues ; and so it goes on 
from generation to generation, like a faction fight in Ire- 
land, or the feudal wars of the barons of the middle ages, 
— a style of things which appears to belong to the nature 
of the human race, and not to any particular country, age, 
or faith. 

Parting from this warlike band with mutual compli- 
ments and good wishes, and our guides each seizing the 
tail of one of our donkeys to increase his onward speed, 
we trotted away back to the boat, which was waiting for 
us at Souhag. There we found our boatmen and a crowd 
of villagers, listening to one of those long stories with 
which the inhabitants of Egypt are wont to enliven their 
hours of inactivity. This is an amusement peculiar to 
the East, and it is one in which I took great delight during 
many a long journey through the deserts on the way to 
Mount Sinai, Syria, and other places. The Arabs are 
great tellers of stories ; and some of them have a peculiar 
knack in rendering them interesting and exciting the 


curiosity of their audience. Many of these stories were 
interesting from their reference to persons and occurrences 
of Holy Writ, particularly of the Old Testament. There 
are many legends of the patriarch Abraham and his 
beautiful wife Sarah, who, excepting Eve, is said to have 
been the fairest of all the daughters of the earth. King 
Solomon is the hero of numerous strange legends ; and 
his adventures with the gnomes and genii who were sub- 
jected to his sway are endless. The poem of Yousef and 
Zuleica is well known in Europe. And the traditions 
relating to the prophet Moses are so numerous, that, with 
the help of a very curious manuscript of an apocryphal 
book ascribed to the great leader of the Jews, I have 
been enabled to compile a connected biography, in which 
many curious circumstances are detailed that are said to 
have taken place during his eventful life, and which con- 
cludes with a highly poetical legend of his death. Many 
of the stories told by the Arabs resemble those of the 
Arabian Nights ; and a large proportion of these are not 
very refined. • 

I have often been greatly amused with watching the 
faces of an audience who were listening to a well-told 
story, some eagerly leaning forward, others smoking their 
pipes with quicker puffs, when something extraordinary 
was related, or when the hero of the story had got into 
some apparently inextricable dilemma. These story-tell- 
ing parties are usually to be seen seated in a circle on 
the ground in a shady place. The donkey-boy will stop 
and gape open-mouthed on overhearing a few words of the 

marvellous adventures of some enchanted prince, and will 



look back at his four-footed companion, fearing lest he 
should resume his original form of a merchant from the 
island of Serendib. The greatest tact is required on the 
part of the narrator to prevent the dispersion of his au- 
dience, who are sometimes apt to melt away on his stopping 
at what he considers a peculiarly interesting point, and 
taking that opportunity of sending round his boy with a 
little brass basin to collect paras. I know of few objects 
better suited for a painter than one of these story-tellers 
and his group of listeners. 




The Island of Philoe— The Cataract of Assouan— The Burial Place 
of Osiris— The Great Temple of Philoe— The Bed of Pharaoh- 
Shooting in Egypt — Turtle Doves— Story of the Prince Anas el 
Ajoud — Egyptian Songs — Vow of the Turtle Dove — Curious 
faet in Natural History — The Crocodile and its Guardian Bird- 
Arab notions regarding Animals — Legend of King Solomon and 
the Hoopoes — Natives of the country round the Cataracts of the 
Nile— Their appearance and Costume— The beautiful Mouna— 
Solitary Visit to the Island of Philoe— Quarrel between two 
native Boys— Singular instance of retributive Justice. 

Every part of Egypt is interesting and curious, but 
the only place to which the epithet of beautiful can be 
correctly applied is the island of Philoe, which is 
situated immediately to the south of the cataract of 
Assouan. The scenery around consists of an infinity 
of steep granite rocks, which stand, some in the water, 
others on the land, all of them of the wildest and most 
picturesque lbrms. The cataract itself cannot be seen 
from the island of Philoe, being shut out by an inter- 
vening rock, whose shattered mass of red granite 
towers over the island, rising straight out of the water. 
From the top of this rock are seen the thousand islands, 
some of bare rock, some covered with palms and 
bushes, which interrupt the course of the river and 
give rise to those eddies, whirlpools, and streams of 
foaming water which are called the cataracts of the 


Nile, but which may be more properly designated as 
rapids, for there is no perpendicular fall of more than 
two or three feet, and boats of the largest size are 
drawn with ropes against the stream through certain 
channels, and are shot down continually with the 
stream on their return without the occurrence of serious 

Several of these rocks are sculptured with tablets and 
inscriptions, recording the offerings of the Pharaohs 
to the gods ; and the sacred island of Philce, the 
burial-place of Osiris, is covered with buildings, temples, 
colonnades, gateways, and terrace walls, which are 
magnificent even in their ruin, and must have been 
superb when still entire, and filled with crowds of priests 
and devotees, accompanied by all the flags and standards, 
gold and glitter, of the ceremonies of their emblematical 

Excepting the Pyramids, nothing in Egypt struck 
me so much as when on a bright moonlit night I first 
entered the oourt of the great temple of Phife. The 
colours of the paintings on the walls are as vivid in 
many places as they were the day they were finished : the 
silence and the solemn grandeur of the immense buildings 
around me were most imposing; and on emerging from 
the lofty gateway between the two towers. of the propylon, 
as I wandered about the island, the tufts of palms, which 
are here of great height, with their weeping branches, 
seemed to be mourning over the desolation of the 
stately palaces and temples to which in ancient times 
all the illustrious of Egypt were wont to resort, and into 


whose inner recesses none might penetrate ; for the 
secret and awful mysteries of the worship of Osiris were 
not to be revealed, nor were they even to be spoken 
of by those who were not initiated into the highest 
orders of the priesthood. Now all may wander 
where they choose, and speculate on the uses of the 
dark chambers hidden in the thickness of the walls, 
and trace out the plans of the courts and temples 
with the long lines of columns which formed the avenue 
of approach from the principal landing-place to the front 
of the great temple. 

The whole island is encumbered with piles of immense 
squared stones, the remains of buildings which" must have 
been thrown down by an earthquake, as nothing else could 
shake such solid works from their foundations.* The 
principal temple, and several smaller ones, are still almost 
entire. One of these, called by the natives the. Bed of 
Pharaoh, is a remarkably light and airy-looking structure, 
differing, in this respect, from the usual character of 
Egyptian architecture. On the terrace overhanging the 
Nile, in front of this graceful temple, I had formed my 
habitation, where there are some vaults of more recent 
construction, which are usually taken possession of by 
travellers and fitted up with the carpets, cushions, and the 
sides of the tents which they bring with them. 

* We are perhaps not entirely acquainted with the mechanical 
powers of the ancients. The seated statue of Rameses II. in the 
Memnonium at Thebes, a solid block of granite forty or fifty feet 
high, has been broken to pieces apparently by a tremendous blow. 
How this can have been accomplished without the aid of gunpow- 
der it is difficult to conjecture. 


Every one who travels in Egypt is more or less a 
sportsman, for the infinity of birds must tempt the most 
idle or contemplative to go " a birding," as the Americans 
term it. I had shot all sorts of birds and beasts, from a 
crocodile to a snipe ; and among other game I had shot 
multitudes of turtle doves ; these pretty little birds being 
exceedingly tame, and never flying very far, I sometimes 
got three or four at a shot, and a dozen or so of them 
made a famous pie or a pilau, with rice and a tasty sauce ; 
but a somewhat singular incident put an end to my war- 
fare against them. One day I was sitting on the terrace 
before the Bed of Pharaoh, surrounded by a circle of 
Arabs and negroes, and we were all listening to a story 
which an old gentleman with a grey beard was telling us 
concerning the loves of the beautiful Ouardi, who was 
shut up in an enchanted palace on this very island to 
secure her from the approaches of her lover, Prince Anas 
el Ajoud, the son of the Sultan Esshamieh, who had 
married seven wives before he had a son. The first six 
wives, on the birth of Anas el Ajoud, placed a log in his 
cradle, and exposed the infant in the desert, where he was 
nursed by a gazelle, and whence he returned to punish 
the six cruel stepmothers, who fully believed he was dead, 
and to rejoice the heart of his father, who had been per- 
suaded by these artful ladies that his sultana by magic 
art had presented him with a log instead of a son, who 
was to be the heir of his dominions, &c. Prince Anas, 
who was in despair at being separated from his lady love, 
used to sing dismal songs as he passed in his gilded boat 
under the walls of the island palace. These, at last, were 

Chap. XII. EGYPTIAN S03GS. 127 

responded to from the lattice by the fair Ouardi, who was 
soon afterwards carried off by the enamoured prince. 
The story, which was an interminable rigmarole, as long 
as one of those spun on from night to night by the Princess 
Sherezade, was diversified every now and then by the 
fearful squealiag of an Arab song. The old storyteller, 
shutting his eyes and throwing back his head that his 
mind might not be distracted by any exterior objects, 
uttered a succession of sounds which set one's teeth 
on edge.* 

• For the benefit of the reader I subjoin two of these songs 
translated from the originals; or rather, I may say, paraphrased ; 
although the first of them has the same rhythm as the original. The 
notes are but very little, if at all, altered from those which have 
been frequently sung to me, accompanied by a drum, called a 
tarabouka, or a long sort of guitar with only two or three strings. 
It must be observed that the chorus, Amaan, Amaan, is Amaan, 
generally added to all songs — A discrition — and that the way this 
chorus is howled out, is to an European ear the most difficult part 
to bear of the whole : 

Thine eyes, thine eyes hare kill'd me : 

With loYe my heart is torn : 
Thy looks with pain have fill'd me : 

Amaan, Amaan, Amaan. 


Oh gently, dearest ! gently, 

Approach me not with scorn : 
With one sweet look content me : 

Amaan, Amaan, Amaan. 

That yellow shawl encloses 

A form made to adorn 
A Peri's bower of roses : 

Amaan, Amaan, Amaan. 


Whilst the old gentleman was shouting ont one of these 
amatory ditties, and I was sitting still listening to these 

The snows, the snows are melting 

On the hills of Isfahan. 
As fair, be as relenting : 

Amaan, Amaan, Amaan • 


Let not her, whose eyelids sleep, 
Imagine I no vigil keep. 
Alas ! with hope and love I burn : 
Ah ! do not from thy lover turn • 

Patron of lovers, Bedowi I 

Ah ! give me her I hold most dear ; 
And I will vow to her, and thee, 

The brightest shawl in all Cashmere. 

Ah ! when I view thy loveliness, 

The lustre of thy deep black eye, 
My songs but add to my distress ! 

Let me behold thee once, and die. 

Think not that scorn and bitter words 

Can make me from my true love sever ! 
Pierce our hearts, then, with your swords : 

The blood of both will flow together. 


Fill us the golden bowl with wine ; 

Give us the ripe and downy peach : 
And, in this bower of jessamine, 

No sorrows oar retreat shall reach. 

Masr may boast her lovely girls, 

Whose necks are deck'd with pearls and gold : 
The gold would fail ; the purest pearls 

Would blush could they my love behold. 


heart-rending sounds, a turtle-dove — who was probably 
awakened from her sleep by the fearful discord, or might, 
perhaps, have been the beautiful Princess Ouardi herself 
transformed into the likeness of a dove — flew out of one of 
the palm-trees which grow on the edge of the bank, and 
perched at a little distance from us. We none of us 
moved, and the turtle-dove, after pausing for a moment, 
ran towards me and nestled under the full sleeve of my 
benisch. It stayed there till the story and the songs were 
ended, and when I was obliged to arise, in order to make 
my compliments to the departing guests, the dove flew 
into the palm-tree again, and went to roost among the 
branches, where several others were already perched with 
their heads under their wings. Thereupon I made a vow 
never to shoot another turtle-dove, however much pie or 
pilau might need them, and I fairly kept my vow. Luckily 
turtle-doves are not so good as pigeons, so it was no great 
loss. Although not to be compared to the Roman bird, 
the Egyptian pigeon is very good eating when he is tender 
and well dressed. 

Famed Skanderieh's beauties, too, 

On Syria's richest silks recline ; 
Their rosy lips are sweet, 'tis true ; 

But can they be compared to thine ? 

Fairest ! your beauty comes from Heaven : 
Freely the lovely gift was given. 
Resist not, then, the high decree— 
'Twas fated I should sigh for thee. 

This last song is well known upon the Nile by the name of 
Its chorus, Docu ya leili. 




Chap. XII 







The snow, the snow is melt - ing on the 




Fhg ^ 

'&^= ^t jfj jT^ 








-=>- 5 »- 


hills of Is - fa - han. 

As fair, be as re- 









fr-b-»— ?- 


, >> i. r • i 


lent - ing; Am - aan, Am - aan, Am - aan. 


-P — P- 




As I am on the subject of birds, I will relate a fact in 
natural history which I was fortunate enough to witness, 
and which, although it is mentioned so long ago as the 
times of Herodotus, has not, I believe, been often observed 
since ; indeed, I have never met with any traveller who 
has himself seen such an occurrence. 

I had always a strong predilection for crocodile shooting, 
and had destroyed several of these dragons of the waters. 
On one occasion I saw, a long way off, a large one, twelve 
or fifteen feet long, lying asleep under a perpendicular 
bank about ten feet high, on the margin of the river. I 
stopped the boat at some distance ; and noting the place as 
well as I could, I took a circuit inland, and came down 
cautiously to the top of the bank, whence with a heavy 
rifle I made sure of my ugly game. I had already cut off 
his head in imagination, and was considering whether it 
should be stuffed with its mouth open or shut. I peeped 
over the bank. There he was, within ten feet of the sight 
of the rifle. I was on the point of firing at his eye, when 
I observed that he was attended by a bird called a zic- 
zac. It is of the plover species, of a greyish colour, 
and as large as a small pigeon. 

The bird was walking up and down close to the croco- 
dile's nose. I supposed I moved, for suddenly it saw me, 
and instead of flying away, as any respectable bird 
would have done, he jumped up about a foot from the 
ground, screamed " Ziczae ? ziczae !" with all the powers 
of his voice, and dashed himself against the crocodile's 
face two or three times. The great beast started up, and 
immediately spying his danger, made a jump up into the 


air, and dashing into the water with a splash which covered 
me with mud, he dived into the river and disappeared. 
The ziczac, to my increased admiration, proud apparently 
of having saved his friend, remained walking up and 
down, uttering his cry, as I thought, with an exulting 
voice, and standing every now and then on the tips of his 
toes in a conceited manner, which made me justly angry 
with his impertinence. After having waited in vain for 
some time, to see whether the crocodile would come out 
again, I got up from the bank where I was lying, threw a 
clod of earth at the ziczac, and came back to the boat, 
feeling some consolation for the loss of my game in having 
witnessed a circumstance, the truth of which has been dis- 
puted by several writers on natural history. 

The Arabs say that every race of animals is governed 
by its chief, to whom the others are bound to pay obei- 
sance. The king of the crocodiles holds his court at the 
bottom of the Nile near Siout. The king of the fleas lives 
at Tiberias, in the Holy Land ; and deputations of ill us. 
trious fleas, from other countries, visit him on a certain 
day in his palace, situated, in the midst of beautiful gar- 
dens, under the Lake of Genesareth. There is a bird 
which is common in Egypt called the hoopoe (Abou hood- 
hood), of whose king the following legend is related. This 
bird is of the size and shape as well as the colour of a 
woodcock ; but has a crown of feathers on its head, which 
it has the power of raising and depressing at will. It is a 
tame, quiet bird, usually to be found walking leisurely in 
search of its food on the margin of the water. It seldom 
takes long flights ; and is not harmed by the natives, who 

Chap. XII. A LEGEND, 183 

are much more sparing of the lives of animals than we 
Europeans are : — 

In the days of Bang Solomon, the son of David, who, by 
the virtue of his cabalistic seal, reigned supreme over 
genii as well as men, and who could speak the languages 
of animals of all kinds, all created beings were subservient 
to his will. Now when the king wanted to travel, he 
made use, for his conveyance, of a carpet of a square 
form. This carpet had the property of extending itself to 
a sufficient size to carry a whole army, with the tents and 
baggage ; but at other times it could be reduced so as to bo 
only large enough for the support of the royal throne, and 
of those ministers whose duty it was to attend upon the 
person of the sovereign. Four genii of the air then took 
the four corners of the carpet, and carried it with its con- 
tents wherever King Solomon desired. Once the king was 
on a journey in the air, carried upon his throne of ivory 
over the various nations of the earth. The rays of the 
sun poured down upon his head, and he had nothing 
to protect him from its heat. The fiery beams were 
beginning to scorch his neck and shoulders when he saw 
a flock of vultures flying past. " Oh, vultures !" cried 
King Solomon, " come and fly between me and the sun, 
and make a shadow with your wings to protect me, 
for its rays are scorching my neck and face." But the 
vultures answered, and said, " We are flying to the north, 
and your face is turned towards the south. We desire to 
continue on our way ; and be it known unto thee, O king ! 
that we will not turn back on our flight, neither will we 
fly above your throne to protect you from the sun, although 


its rays may be scorching your neck and face." Then 
King Solomon lifted up his voice, and said, " Cursed be ye, 

vultures! — and because you will not obey the com- 
mands of your lord, who rules over the whole world, the 
feathers of your neoks shall fall off; and the heat of the 
sun, and the coldness of the winter, and the keenness 
of the wind, and the beating of the rain, shall fall upon 
your rebellious necks, which shall not be protected with 
feathers like the necks of other birds. And whereas you 
have hitherto fared delicately, henceforward ye shall eat 
carrion and feed upon offal ; and your race shall be 
impure until the end of the world." And it was done 
unto the vultures as King Solomon had said. 

Now it fell out that there was a flock of hoopoes flying 
past ; and the king cried out to them, and said, " O 
hoopoes ! come and fly between me and the sun, that 

1 may be protected from its rays by the shadow of your 
wings." Whereupon the king of the hoopoes answered, 
and said, " O king, we are but little fowls, and we are not 
able to afford much shade ; but we will gather our nation 
together, and by our numbers we will make up for our 
small size." So the hoopoes gathered together, and, 
flying in a cloud over the throne of the king, they sheltered 
him from the rays of the sun. 

When the journey was over, and King Solomon sat 
upon his golden throne, in his palace of ivory, whereof the 
doors were emerald, and the windows of diamonds, larger 
even than the diamond of Jemshid, he commanded that the 
king of the hoopoes should stand before his feet. "Now," 
■aid King Solomon, " for the service that thou and thy race 


have rendered, and the obedience thou hast shown to the 
king, thy lord and master, what shall be done unto thee, 
O hoopoe ? and what shall be given to the hoopoes of thy 
race for a memorial and a reward ?" Now the king of the 
hoopoes was confused with the gieat honour of standing 
before the feet of the king ; and, making his obeisance, and 
laying his right claw upon his heart, he said, " O king, 
live for ever ! Let a day be given to thy servant, to con- 
sider with his queen and his councillors what it shall be 
that the king shall give unto us for a reward." And King 
Solomon said, " Be it so." And it was so. 

But the king of the hoopoes flew away ; and he went to 
his queen, who was a dainty hen, and he told her what had 
happened, and he desired her advice as to what they 
should ask of the king for a reward.; and he called 
together his council, and they sat upon a tree, and they 
each of them desired a different thing. Some wished for 
a long tail ; some wished for blue and green feathers ; 
some wished to be as large as ostriches ; some wished for 
one thing, and some for another ; and they debated till the 
going down of the sun, but they could not agree together. 
Then the queen took the king of the hoopoes apart and 
said unto him, " My dear lord and husband, listen to my 
words ; and as we have preserved the head of King Solo- 
mon, let us ask for crowns of gold on our heads, that we 
may be superior to all other birds." And the words of 
the queen and the princesses her daughters prevailed : and 
the king of the hoopoes presented himself before the throne 
of Solomon, and desired of him that all hoopoes should 
wear golden crowns upon their heads. Then Solomon said, 


u Hast thou considered well what it is that thou desirest V 9 
And the hoopoe said, " I have considered well, and we 
desire to have golden crowns upon our heads." So Solo- 
mon replied, " Crowns of gold shall ye have : but, behold, 
thou art a foolish bird ; and when the evil days shall come 
upon thee, and thou seest the folly of thy heart, return 
here to me, and I will give thee help." So the king of the 
hoopoes left the presence of King Solomon with a golden 
crown upon his head. And all the hoopoes had golden 
crowns ; and they were exceeding proud and haughty. 
Moreover, they went down by the lakes and the pools, 
and walked by the margin of the water, that they might 
admire themselves as it were in a glass. And the queen 
of the hoopoes gave herself airs, and sat upon a twig ; and 
she refused to speak to the merops her cousin, and the 
other birds who had been her friends, because they were 
but vulgar birds, and she wore a crown of gold upon her 

Now there was a certain fowler who set traps for birds ; 
and he put a piece of a broken mirror into his trap, and a 
hoopoe that went in to admire herself was caught. And 
the fowler looked at it, and saw the shining crown upon 
its head ; so he wrung off its head, and took the crown to 
Issachar, the son of Jacob, the worker in metal, and he 
asked him what it was. So Issachar, the son of Jacob, 
said, " It is a crown of brass." And he gave the fowler a 
quarter of a shekel for it, and desired him, if he found any 
more, to bring them to him, and to tell no man thereof. So 
the fowler caught some more hoopoes, and sold their 
crowns to Issachar, the son of Jacob ; until one day he met 


another man who was a jeweller, and ho showed him 
several of the hoopoes' crowns. Whereupon the jeweller 
told him that they were of pure gold ; and he gave tho 
fowler a talent of gold for four of them. 

Now when the value of these crowns was known, the 
fame of them got abroad, and in all the land of Israel was 
heard the twang of bows and the whirling of slings ; bird- 
lime was made in every town ; and the price of traps rose 
in the market, so that the fortunes of the trap-makers 
increased. Not a hoopoe could show its head but it was 
slain or taken captive, and the days of the hoopoes werr» 
numbered. Then their minds were filled with sorrow and 
dismay, and before long few were left to bewail their cruel 

At last, flying by stealth through the most unfrequented 
places, the unhappy king of the hoopoes went to the court 
of King Solomon, and stood again before the steps of the 
golden throne, and with tears and groans related the mis- 
fortunes which had happened to his race. 

So King Solomon looked kindly upon the king of the 
hoopoes, and said unto him, "Behold, did 1 not warn 
thee of thy folly, in desiring to have crowns of gold ? 
Vanity and pride have been thy ruin. But now, that 
a memorial may remain of the service which thou didst 
render unto me, your crowns of gold shall be changed 
into crowns of feathers, that ye may walk unharmed 
upon the earth." Now when the fowlers saw that the 
hoopoes no longer wore crowns of gold upon their heads, 
they ceased from the persecution of their race ; and 
from that time forth the family of the hoopoes have 


flourished and increased, and have continued in peace 
even to the present day. 

And here endeth the veracious history of the king of the 

But to return to the island of Philce. The neighbour- 
hood of the cataracts is inhabited by a peculiar race of 
people, who are neither Arabs, nor negroes, like the 
Nubians, whose land joins to theirs. They are of a clear 
copper colour; and are slightly but elegantly formed. 
They have woolly hair ; and are not encumbered with 
much clothing. The men wear a short tunic of white 
cotton ; but often have only a petticoat round their loins. 
The married women have a piece of stuff thrown over 
their heads which envelopes the whole person. Under 
this they wear a curious garment made of fine strips ot 
black leather, about a foot long, like a fringe. This 
hangs round the hips, and forms the only clothing of 
unmarried girls, whose forms are as perfect as that 
of any ancient statue. They dress their hair precisely in 
the same way as we see in the pictures of the ancient 
Egyptians, plaited in numerous tresses, which descend 
about half way down the neck, and are plentifully 
anointed with castor-oil ; that they may not spoil their 
head-dresses, they use, instead of a pillow to rest their 
heads upon at night, a stool of hard wood like those which 
are found in the ancient tombs, and which resemble in 
shape the handle of a crutch more than anything else that 
I can think of. The women are fond of necklaces 
and armlets of beads ; and the men wear a knife of a 
peculiar form, stuck into an armlet above the elbow of 


the left arm. When they go from home they oarry a 
spear, and a shield made of the skin of the hippopotamus 
or crocodile, with which they are very clever in warding 
off blows, and in defending themselves from stones or 
other missiles. 

Of this race was a girl called Mouna, whom I had 
known as a child when I was first at Philos. She grew 
up to be the most beautiful bronze statue that can be 
conceived. She used to bring eggs from the island on 
which she lived to Philoe: her means of conveyance 
across the water was a piece of the trunk of a doom- 
tree, upon which she supported herself as she swam 
across the Nile ten times a-day. I never saw so per- 
fect a figure as that of Mouna. She was of a lighter 
brown than most of the other girls, and was exactly 
the colour of a new copper kettle. She had magnificent 
large eyes ; and her face had but a slight leaning towards 
the Ethiopian contour. Her hands and feet were 
wonderfully small and delicately formed. In short, she 
was a perfect beauty in her way ; but the perfume of the 
castor-oil with which she was anointed had so strong a 
savour that, when she brought us the eggs and chickens, 
I always admired her at a distance of ten yards to wind- 
ward. She had an ornamented calabash to hold her 
castor-oil, from which she made a fresh toilette every 
time she swam across the Nile. 

I have been three times at Philoe, and indeed I had so 
great an admiration of the place that on my last visit, 
thinking it probable that I should never again behold its 
wonderful ruins and extraordinary scenery, I determined 


to spend the day there alone, that 1 might meditate at my 
leisure and wander as I chose from one well-remembered 
spot to another without the incumbrance of half a dozen 
people staring at whatever I looked at, and following me 
about out of pure idleness. Greatly did I enjoy my soli- 
tary day, and whilst leaning over the parapet oh the top 
of the great Propylon, or seated on one of the terraces 
which overhung the Nile, I in imagination repeopled the 
scene, with the forms of the priests and worshippers of 
other days, restored the fallen temples to their former 
glory, and could almost think I saw the processions wind- 
ing round their walls, and heard the trumpets, and the 
harps, and the sacred hymns in honour of the great 
Osiris. In the evening a native came over with a little 
boat to take me off the island, and I quitted with regret 
this strange and interesting region. 

I landed at the village of rude huts on the shore of the 
river and sat down on a stone, waiting for my donkey, 
which I purposed to ride through the desert in die cool of 
the evening to Assouan, where my boat was moored. 
While I was sitting there, two boys were playing and 
wrestling together; they were naked and about nine or 
ten years old. They soon began to quarrel, and one of 
them drew the dagger which he wore upon his arm and 
stabbed the other in the throat. The poor boy fell to the 
ground bleeding ; the dagger had entered his throat on the 
left side under the jaw-bone, and being directed upwards 
had cut his tongue and grazed the roof of his mouth. 
Whilst he cried and writhed a!>out upon the ground with 


the blood pouring out of his mouth, the villagers came out 
from their cabins and stood around talking and screaming, 
but affording no help to the poor boy. Presently a young 
man, who was, 1 believe, a lover of Mouna's, stood up 
and asked where the rather of the boy was, and why he 
did not come to help him. The villagers said he had no 
father. " Where are his relations, then ?" he asked. The 
boy had no relations, there was no one to care for him in 
the village. On hearing this he muttered some words 
which I did not understand, and started off after the boy 
who had inflicted the wound. The young assassin ran 
away as fast as he could, and a famous chase took place. 
They darted over the plain, scrambled up the rocks, and 
jumped down some dangerous- looking places among the 
masses of granite which formed the background of the 
village. At length the boy was caught, and, screaming 
and struggling, was dragged to the spot where his victim 
lay moaning and heaving upon the sand. The young 
man now placed him between his legs, and in this way 
held him tight whilst he examined the wound of the other, 
putting his finger into it and opening his mouth to see 
exactly how far it extended. When he had satisfied him- 
self on the subject he called for a knife ; the boy had 
thrown his away in the race, and he had not one himself. 
The villagers stood silent around, and one of them having 
handed him a dagger, the young man held the boy's head 
sideways across his thigh and cut his throat exactly in the 
same way as he had done to the other. He then pitched 
him away upon the ground, and the two lay together 
bleeding and writhing side by side. Their wounds were 


precisely the same ; the second operation had been most 
expertly performed, and the knife had passed just where 
the boy had stabbed his playmate. The wounds, I believe, 
were not dangerous, for presently both the boys got up 
and were led away to their homes. It was a curious 
instance of retributive justice, following out the old law 
of blood for blood, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. 

Chap. Xm. JERUSALEM. 14S 



Journey to Jerusalem— First View of the Holy City— The Valley 
of Gihon — Appearance of the City — The Latin Convent of St. 
Salvador— Inhospitable Reception by the Monks—Visit to the 
Church of the Holy Sepulchre — Description of the Interior— 
The Chapel of the Sepulchre — The Chapel of the Cross on 
Mount Calvary— The Tomb and Sword of Godfrey de Bouillon — 
Arguments in favour of the Authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre 
— The Invention of the Cross by the Empress Helena—Legend 
of the Cross. 

" Ecco apparir Gerusalem si vede, 
Ecco additar Gerusalem si scorge, 
Ecco da mile voce unitamente, 
Gerusalemme salutar si sente. 

E 1' uno all' altro il mostra e in tanto oblia, 
La noja e il mal della passata via. 

Al gran piacer che quella prima vista, 
Dolcemente spiro nelP altrui petto, 
Alta contrizion succese mista, 
Di timoroso e riverente affetto, 
Ossano appena d' inalzar la vista 
Ver la citta, di Christo albergo eletto : 
Dove mori, dove sepolto fue ; 
Dove poi riveste le membre sue." 

Tasso, Gerusalemme Liberata, Canto 3. 

We left our camels and dromedaries, and wild Arabs of 
the desert, at Gaza ; and being now provided with horses, 
and a tamer sort of Yahoo to attend upon them, we took 
our way across the hills towards Jerusalem. 


The road passes over a succession of rounded rocky- 
hills, almost every step being rendered interesting by its 
connexion with the events of Holy Writ. On our left we 
saw the village of Kobab, and on our right the ruins of a 
castle said to have been built by the Maccabees, and not 
far from it the remains of an ancient Christian church. 

As our train of horses surmounted each succeeding 
eminence, every one was eager to be the first who should 
catch a glimpse of the Holy City. Again and again we 
were disappointed ; another rocky valley yawned beneath 
us, and another barren stony hill rose up beyond. 
There seemed to be no end to the intervening hills and 
dales ; they appeared to multiply beneath our feet. At 
last, when we had almost given up the point, and had 
ceased to contend for the first view by galloping ahead, as 
we ascended another rocky brow we saw the towers of 
what seemed to be a Gothic castle ; then, as we approached 
nearer, a long line of walls and battlements appeared 
crowning a ridge of rock which rose from a narrow valley 
to the right. This was the valley of the pools of Gihon, 
where Solomon was crowned, and the battlements which 
rose above it were the long looked-for walls of Jerusalem. 
With one accord our whole party drew their bridles, and 
stood still to gaze for the first time upon this renowned and 
sacred city. 

It is not easy to describe the sensations which fill the 
breast of a Christian when, after a long and toilsome 
journey, he first beholds this, the most interesting and 
venerated spot upon the whole surface of the globe. 
Every one was silent for a while, absorbed in the deepest 


contemplation. The object of our pilgrimage was accom- 
plished, and I do not think that anything we saw after- 
wards during our stay in Jerusalem made a more profound 
impression on our minds than this first distant view. 

It was curious to observe the different effect which our 
approach to Jerusalem had upon the various persons who 
composed our party. A Christian pilgrim, who had joined 
us on the road, fell down upon his knees and kissed the 
holy ground ; two others embraced each other, and con. 
gratulated themselves that they had lived to see Jerusalem. 
As for us Franks, we sat bolt upright upon our horses, and 
stared and said nothing; whilst around us the more 
natural children of the East wept for joy, and, as in the 
army of the Crusaders, the word Jerusalem ! Jerusalem ! 
was repeated from mouth to mouth ; but we, who consider 
ourselves civilized and superior beings, repressed our emo- 
tions ; we were above showing that we participated in the 
feelings of our barbarous companions. As for myself, I 
would have got off my horse and walked bare-footed towards 
the gate, as some did, if I had dared ; but I was in fear 
of being laughed at for my absurdity, and therefore sat 
fast in my saddle. At last I blew my nose, and, pressing 
the sharp edges of my Arab stirrups on the lank sides of 
my poor weary jade, I rode on slowly towards the Bethle- 
hem gate. 

On the sloping sides of the valley of Gihon numerous 
groups of people were lying under the olive-trees in the 
cool of the evening, and parties of grave Turks, seated on 
their carpets by the" road-side, were smoking their long 
pipes in dignified silence. ' But what struck me most were 



some old white-bearded Jews, who were holding forth to 
groups of their friends or disciples under the walls of the 
city of their fathers, and dilating perhaps upon the 
glorious actions of their race in former days. 

Jerusalem has been described as a deserted and melan- 
choly ruin, filling the mind with images of desolation and 
decay, but it did not strike me as such. It is still a com- 
pact city, as it is described in Scripture ; the Saracenic 
walls have a stately, magnificent appearance; they are 
built of large and massive stones. The square towers, 
which are seen at intervals, are handsome and in good 
repair ; and there is an imposing dignity in the appearance 
of the grim old citadel, which rises in the centre of the 
line of walls and towers* with its batteries and terraces 
one above another, surmounted with the crimson flag of 
Turkey floating heavily over the conquered city of the 

* We entered by the Bethlehem gate ; it is com- 
manded by the citadel, which was built by the people 
of Pisa, and is still called the castle of the Pisans. 
There we had some parleying with the Egyptian 
guards, and, crossing an open space famous in mo- 
nastic tradition as the garden where Bathsheba was 
bathing when she was seen by King David from 
the roof of his palace, we threaded a labyrinth of 
narrow streets, which the horses of our party com- 
pletely blocked up ; and as soon as we could, we sent 
a man with our letters of introduction to the superior 
of the Latin convent. I had letters from Cardinal 
Weld and Cardinal Pedicini, which we presumed 


would ensure us a warm and hospitable reception; 
and as travellers are usually lodged in the monastic 
establishments, we went on at once to the Latin con- 
vent of St. Salvador, where we expected to enjoy all 
the comforts and luxuries of European civilization 
after our weary journey over the desert from Egypt. 
We, however^ quickly discovered our mistake ; for, on 
dismounting at the gate of the convent, we were 
received in a very cool way by the monks, who ap- 
peared to make the reception of travellers a mere 
matter of interest, and treated us as if we were dust 
under their feet. They put us into a wretched hole in 
the Casa Nuova, a house belonging to them near the 
convent, where there was scarcely room for our bag- 
gage ; and we went to bed not a little mortified at 
our inhospitable reception by our Christian brethren, so 
different from what we had always experienced from the 
Mahometans. The convent of St. Salvador belongs to a 
community of Franciscan friars ; they were most of them 
Spaniards, and, being so far away from the superior 
officers of their order, they were not kept in very perfect 
discipline. It was probably owing to our being heretics 
that we were not better received. Fortunately we had 
our own beds, tents, cooking-utensils, carpets, &c. ; 
so that we soon made ourselves comfortable in 
the bare vaulted rooms which were allotted to us, 
and for which, by-the-by, we had to pay pretty 

The next morning early we went to the church of the 
Holy Sepulchre, descending the hill from the convent, 


and then down a flight of narrow steps into a small paved 
court, one side of which is occupied by the Gothic front 
of the church. The court was full of people selling 
beads and crucifixes and other holy ware. We had to 
wait some time, till the Turkish doorkeepers came to 
unlock the door, as they keep the keys of the church, 
which is only open on certain days, except to votaries of 
distinction. There is a hole in the door, through which 
the pilgrims gave quantities of things to the monks inside 
to be laid upon the sepulchre. At last the door was 
opened, and we went into the church. 

On entering these sacred walls the attention is first 
directed to a large slab of marble on the floor opposite 
the door, with several lamps suspended over it, and three 
enormous waxen tapers about twenty feet in height stand- 
ing at each end. The pilgrims approach it on their 
knees, touch and kiss it, and, prostrating themselves before 
it, offer up their adoration. This, you are told, is the 
stone on which the body of our Lord was washed and 
anointed, and prepared for the tomb* 

Turning to the left, we came to a round stone let 
into the pavement, with a canopy of ornamental iron- 
work over it. Here the Virgin Mary is said to have 
stood when the body of our Saviour was taken down from 
the cross. 

Leaving this, we entered the circular space im- 
mediately under the great dome, which is about 
eighty feet in diameter, and is surrounded by eighteen 
large square piers, which support the front of a broad 
gallery. Formerly this circular gallery was supported 


by white marble pillars: but the church was burnt 
down about twenty years ago, through the negligence 
of a drunken Greek monk, who set a light to some parts 
of the woodwork, and then endeavoured to put out the 
flames by throwing aqua vit® upon them, which he mistook 
for water. 

The Chapel of the Sepulchre stands under the centre 
of the dome. It is a small oblong house of stone, rounded 
at one end, where there is an altar for the Coptic and 
Abyssinian Christians. At the other end it is square, and 
has a platform of marble in front, which is ascended by a 
flight of steps, and has a low parapet wall and a seat on 
each side. The chapel contains two rooms. Taking 
off our shoes and turbans, we entered a low narrow 
door, and went into a chamber, in the centre of which 
stands a block of polished marble. On this stone 
sat the angel who announced the blessed tidings ot 
the resurrection. 

From this room, which has a small round window 
on each side, we passed through another low door 
into the inner chamber, which contains the Holy 
Sepulchre itself, which, however, is not visible, being 
concealed by an altar of white marble. It is said to 
be a long narrow excavation like a grave or the interior 
of a sarcophagus hewed out of the rock just beneath 
the level of the ground. Six rows of lamps of silver 
gilt, twelve in each row, hang from the ceiling, and 
are kept perpetually burning. The tomb occupies 
nearly one half of the sepulchral chamber, and ex- 
tends from one end of it to the other on the right 


■ide of the door as you enter; a space of three feet 
wide and rather more than six feet long in front of 
it being all that remains for the accommodation of the 
pilgrims, so that not more than three or four can be 
admitted at a time. 

Leaving this hallowed spot, we were conducted first 
to the place where our Lord appeared to Mary Mag- 
dalen, and then to the Chapel of the Latins, where a part 
of the pillar of flagellation is preserved. 

The Greeks have possession of the choir of the church, 
which is opposite the door of the Holy Sepulchre. This 
part of the building is of great size, and is magnificently 
decorated with gold and carving and stiff pictures of the 
saints. In the centre is a globe of black marble on a pe- 
destal, under which they say the head of Adam was found ; 
and you are told also that this is the exact centre of the 
globe ; the Greeks having thus transferred to Jerusalem, 
from the temple of Apollo at Delphi, the absurd notions 
of the pagan priests of antiquity relative to the farm of 
the earth. 

Returning towards the door of the church, and leaving 
it on our right hand, we ascended a flight of about twenty 
steps, and found ourselves in the Chapel of the Cross on 
Mount Calvary. At the upper end of this chapel is an 
altar, on the spot where the crucifixion took place, and 
under it is the hole into which the end of the cross was 
fixed : this is surrounded witk a glory of silver gilt, and 
on each side of it, at the distance of about six feet, are 
the holes in which the crosses of the two thieves stood. 
Near to these is a long rent in the rock, which was opened 


by an earthquake at the time of the crucifixion. Although 
the three crosses appear to have stood very near to each 
other, yet, from the manner in which they are placed, there 
would have been room enough for them, as the cross of 
our Saviour stands in front of the other two. 

Leaving this chapel we entered a kind of vault under 
the stairs, in which the rent of the rock is again seen : it 
extends from the ceiling to the floor, and has every appear- 
ance of having been caused by some convulsion of nature, 
and not formed by the hands of man. Here were formerly 
the tombs of Godfrey de Bouillon and Baldwin his brother, 
who were buried beneath the cross for which they fought 
so valiantly : but these tombs have lately been destroy— 
by the Greeks, whose detestation of everything connected 
with the Latin Church exceeds their aversion to the Ma- 
hometan creed. In the sacristy of the Latin monks we 
were shown the sword and spurs of Godfrey de Bouillon ; 
the sword is apparently of the age assigned to it : it is 
double-edged and straight, with a cross-guard,* 

In another part of the church is a small dismal chapel, 
in the floor of which are several ancient tombs ; one of 
them is said to be the sepulchre of Joseph of Arimathea. 
Of the antiquity of these tombs there cannot be the slight- 

* This sword is used by the Reverendissimo, the title given to 
the superior of the Franciscans, when he confers the order of 
Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, which is only given to a Roman 
Catholic of noble birth. The Reverendissimo is also authorized by 
the Pope to give a flag bearing the Five Crosses of Jerusalem to 
the captain of any ship who has rendered service to the Catholic 
religion. These honours were first instituted by the Christian 
Kings of Jerusalem, but they are now sold by the monks for about 
forty d'Slurs to any Roman Catholic who likes to pay for them 


est doubt ; and their being here forms the best argument 
for the authenticity of the Holy Sepulchre itself, as it 
shows that this was formerly a place of burial, notwith- 
standing its situation in the centre of the ancient city, 
contrary to the almost universal practice of the ancients, 
whose sepulchres are always found some short distance 
from their cities ; indeed, among the Egyptians, whose 
manners seem to have been followed m many respects by 
the Jews, it was a law that no one should be buried in the 
cultivated grounds, but their tombs were excavated in the 
rocks of the desert, that the agricultural and other daily 
pursuits of the living might not interfere with the repose 
of the dead. It is mentioned in the Bible that Christ was 
led out to be crucified ; but it is not quite clear from the 
passage whether he was led out of the city of Jerusalem 
itself, or only from the city of David on Mount Sion, which 
appears to have been the citadel and place of residence 
of the Roman governor. If so, the site of the Holy Se- 
pulchre may be the true one ; and in common with all 
other pilgrims, I am inclined to hope that the tomb now 
pointed out may really be the sepulchre of Christ. 

Descending a flight of steps from the body of the church, 
we entered the subterranean chapel of St. Helena, below 
which is another vault, in which the true cross is said to 
have been found. A very curious account of the finding 
of the cross is to be seen in the black-letter pages of Cax- 
ton's * Golden Legend,' and it has formed the subject of 
many singular traditions arid romantic stories in former 
days. The history of this famous relic would be tedious 
were I to narrate it in the obsolete phraseology of the 


father of English printing, and I will therefore only give 
a short summary o£ the legend ; although, to those who 
take an interest in monastic traditions, the accounts given 
in old books, which were read by our ancestors before the 
Reformation with all the sober seriousness of undoubting 
faith, afford a curious instance of the proneness of the 
human intellect to mistake the shadow for the substance, 
and to substitute an unbounded veneration lor outward 
observances for the more reasonable acts of spiritual 

In the middle ages, while the worship of our Saviour 
was completely neglected, the wooden cross upon which he 
was supposed to have suffered was the object of universal 
adoration to all sects of Christians : armies fought with 
religious enthusiasm, not for the faith, but for the relic of 
the cross ; and the traditions regarding it were received 
as undoubted facts by the heroes of the crusades, the 
hierarchy of the Church, and all who called themselves 
Christians, in those iron ages, when with rope and fagot, 
fire and sword, the fierce piety even of good men sought 
to enforce the precepts of Him whose advent was heralded 
with the angels' hymn of " peace on earth and good will 
towards men." 

It is related in the apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus, 
that when Adam fell sick he sent his son Seth to the gate 
of the terrestrial paradise to ask the angel for some drops 
of the oil of mercy, which distilled from the tree of life, to 
cure him of his disease ; but the angel answered that he 
could not receive this healing oil until 5500 years had 
passed away. He gave him, however, a branch of this 


tree, and it was planted upon Adam's grave. In aftei 
ages the tree flourished and waxed exceeding fair, for 
Adam was buried in Mount Lebanon, not very far from the 
place near Damascus whence the red earth of which his 
body was formed by the Creator had been taken. When 
Balkis, Queen of Abyssinia, came to visit Solomon the 
King, she worshipped this tree, for she said that thereon 
should the Saviour of the world be hanged, and that from 
that time the kingdom of the Jews should cease. Upon 
hearing this, Solomon commanded that the tree should be 
cut down and buried in a certain place in Jerusalem, 
where afterwards the pool of Bethesda was dug, and 
the angel that had charge of the mysterious tree troubled 
the water of the pool at certain seasons, and those who first 
dipped into it were cured of their ailments. As the time 
of the passion of the Saviour approached, the wood floated 
on the surface of the water, and of that piece of timber, 
which was of cedar, the Jews made the upright part of the 
cross, the cross beam was made of cypress, the piece on 
which his feet rested was of palm, and the other, on which 
the superscription was written, was of olive. 

After the crucifixion, the holy cross and the crosses of 
the two thieves were thrown into the town ditch, or, 
according to some, into an old vault which was near 
at hand, and they were covered with the refuse and ruins 
of the city. In her extreme old age the Empress Helena, 
making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, threatened all the Jew- 
ish inhabitants with torture and death if they did not 
produce the holy cross from the place where their an- 
cestors had concealed it ; and at last an old Jew named 


Judas, who had been put into prison and was nearly 
famished, consented to reveal the secret ; he accordingly 
petitioned Heaven, whereupon the earth trembled, and from 
the fissures in the ground a delicious aromatic odour issued 
forth, and on the soil being removed the three crosses were 
discovered; and near the crosses the superscription was 
also found, but it was not known to which of the three it 
belonged. However, Macarius, Bishop of Jerusalem, 
repairing with the Empress to the house of a noble lady 
who was afflicted with an incurable disease, she was 
immediately restored to health by touching the true cross ; 
and the body of a young man which was being carried out 
to burial was brought to life on being laid upon the holy 
wood. At the sight of these miracles Judas the Jew 
became a Christian, and was baptized by the name of 
Quiriacus, to the great indignation of the devil, for, said 
he, " by the first Judas I gained much profit, but by this 
man's conversion I shall lose many souls." 

It would be endless were I to give the history of all the 
authenticated relics of the holy cross since those days ; 
but of the three principal pieces one is now, or lately was, 
at Etchmiazin, in Armenia, the monks of which Church 
are accused of having stolen it from the Latins of Jeru- 
salem when they were imprisoned by Sultan Suleiman. 
The second piece is still at Jerusalem, in the hands of the 
Greeks ; and the third, which was sent by the Empress 
Helena herself to the church of Santa Croce .di Gerusa- 
iemme at Rome, is now preserved in St. Peter's. There 
is indeed little reason to doubt that the piece of wood exhi- 
bited at Rome is the same that the Empress sent there in 


the year 326. The feast of the " Invention of the Cross" 
continues to be celebrated every year on the 3rd of May 
by an appropriate mass. 

Besides the objects which I have mentioned, there is 
within the church an altar on the spot where Christ is said 
to have appeared to the Virgin after the resurrection. 
This completes the list of all the sacred places contained 
under the roof of the great church of the Holy Sepulchre. 

I may remark that all the very ancient specimens of 
the relics of the true cross are of the same wood, which 
has a very peculiar half-petrified appearance. I have a 
relic of this kind ; the date of the shrine in which it is 
preserved being of the date of 1280. I have also a piece 
of the cross in a more modern setting, which is not of the 
same wood. 

Whether all the hallowed spots within these walls really 
are the places which the guardians of the church declare 
them to be, or whether they have been fixed on at random, 
and consecrated to serve the interested views of a crafty 
priesthood, is a fact that I shall leave others to determine ; 
however this may be it is a matter of little consequence 
to the Christian. The great facts on which the history of 
the Gospel is founded are not so closely connected with 
particular spots of earth or sacred buildings as to be ren- 
dered doubtful by any mistake in the choice of a locality. 
The main error on the part of the priests of modern times 
at Jerusalem arises from an anxiety to prove the actual 
existence of everything to which any allusion is made by 
the evangelical historians, not remembering that the lapse 
of ages and the devastation of successive wars must have 


destroyed much, and disguised more, which the early dis- 
ciples could most readily have identified. The mere cir- 
cumstance that the localities of almost all the events which 
attended the close of our Saviour's ministry are crowded 
into one place, and covered by the roof of a single church, 
might excite a very justifiable doubt as to the exactness of 
the topography maintained by the friars of Mount Moriah. 



The Via Dolorosa— The Houses of Dives and of Lazarus— The 
Prison of St. Peter— The Site of the Temple of Solomon — The 
Mosque of Omar— The Hadjr el Sakhara — The Greek Monastery 
—Its Library — Valuable Manuscripts — Splendid MS. of the Book 
of Job — Arabic spoken at Jerusalem — Mussulman Theory re- 
garding the Crucifixion— State of the Jews— Richness of their 
Dress in their own Houses — Beauty of their Women — Their 
literal Interpretation of Scripture — The Service in the Synagogue 
— Description of the House of a Rabbi — The Samaritans — Their 
Roll of the Pentateuch— Arrival of Ibrahim Pasha at Jerusalem. 

Except the Holy Sepulchre, none of the places which are 
pointed out as sacred within the walls of Jerusalem merit 
a description, as they have evidently been created by the 
monks to serve their own purposes. You are shown, for 
instance, the whole of the Via Dolorosa, the way by 
which our Saviour passed from the hall of Pilate to Mount 
Calvary, and the exact seven places where he fell under 
the weight of the cross : you are shown the house of the 
rich man and that of Lazarus, both of them Turkish 
buildings, although, as that story is related in a parable, 
no real localities ever can have been referred to. Near 
the house of Lazarus there were several dogs when I 
passed by, and, on my asking the guide whether they were 
the descendants of the original dogs in the parable, he 
said he was not quite sure, but that as to the house there 
could be no doubt. The prison of St. Peter is also to be 
seen, but the column on which the cock stood who crowed 
on his denial of our Lord, as well as the steps by which 


Christ ascended to the judgment-seat of Pilate, have been 
carried away to Rome, where they are both to be seen as 
the hill of St. John Lateran. 

The Mosque of Omar stands on the site of the ancient 
Temple of Solomon, which covered the whole of the 
enclosure which is now the garden of the mosque, a space 
of about 1500 feet long, and 1000 feet wide. In the 
centre of this garden is a platform of stone about 600 feet 
square, on which stands the octagonal building of the 
mosque itself, the upper part being covered with green 
porcelain tiles which glitter in the sun : below, the walls 
are paneled with marble richly worked and of different 
colours : the dome in the centre has a wide cornice round 
it, ornamented with sentences from the Koran : the whole 
has a brilliant and extraordinary appearance, more like a 
Chinese Temple than anything else. This building is 
called the Acksa el Sakhara, from its containing a piece 
of rock called the Hadjr el Sakhara, or the locked-up 
stone, which is the principal object of veneration in the 
place : it occupies the centre of the mosque, and on it are 
shown the prints of the angel Gabriel's fingers, who 
brought it from heaven, and the mark of the Prophet's 
foot and that of his camel, a singularly good leaper, two 
more of whose footsteps I have seen in Egypt and Arabia, 
and I believe there is another at Damascus, the whole 
journey from Jerusalem to Mecca having been performed 
in four bounds only, for which remarkable service the 
camel is to have a place in heaven, where he will enjoy 
the society of Borak, the prophet's horse, Balaam's ass, 
Tobit's dog, and the dog of the seven sleepers, whose 


name was Ketmir, and also the companionship of a certain 
celebrated fly with whose merits I am unacquainted. 

We are told that the stone of the Sakhara fell from 
heaven at the time when prophecy commenced at Jerusa- 
lem. It was employed as a seat by the venerable men to 
whom that gift was communicated, and, as long as the 
spirit of vaticination continued to enlighten their minds, 
the slab remained steady for their accommodation ; but no 
sooner was the power of prophecy withdrawn, and the per- 
secuted seers compelled to flee for safety to other lands, 
than the stone manifested the profoundest sympathy in their 
fate, and evinced a determination to accompany them in 
their flight : on which Gabriel the archangel interposed 
his authority, and prevented the departure of the propheti- 
cal chair. He grasped it with his mighty hand and nailed 
it to its rocky bed by seven brass or golden nails. When 
any event of great importance to the world takes place the 
head of one of these nails disappears, and when they are 
all gone the day of judgment will come. As there are 
now only three left, the Mahometans believe that the end 
of all things is not far distant. All those who have faith- 
fully performed their devotions at this celebrated mosque 
are furnished by the priest with a certificate of having 
done so, which is to be buried with them that they may 
show it to the door-keeper of Paradise as a ticket of admis- 
sion. I was presented with one of these at Jerusalem, and 
found another in the desert of Al Arisch, a wondrous piece 
of good fortune in the estimation of my Mahometan fol- 
lowers, as I was provided with a ticket for a friend, as 


well as a pass for ray own reception among the houris of 
their Prophet's celestial garden. 

The Greek monastery adjoins the church of the Holy 
Sepulchre. It contains a good library, the iron door of 
which is opened by a key as large as a horse-pistol. Tho 
books are kept in good order, and consist of about two 
thousand printed volumes in various languages ; and about 
: five hundred Greek and Arabic MSS. on paper, which are 
all theological works. There are also about one hundred 
Greek manuscripts on vellum : the whole collection is in 
excellent preservation. One of the eight manuscripts of 
the Gospels which the library contains has the index and 
the beginning of each Gospel written in gold letters on 
purple vellum, and has also some curious illummatrons. 
There is likewise a manuscript of the whole Bible : it is 
a large folio, and is the only one I ever heard of, excepting 
the one at the Vatican and that at the British Museum. 
One of the most beautiful volumes in the library is a large 
folio of the book of Job. It is a most glorious MS. : the 
text is written in large letters, surrounded with scholia in 
a smaller hand, and almost every page contains one or 
more miniatures representing the sufferings of Job, with 
ghastly portraits of Bildad the Shuhite and his other pity- 
ing friends: this manuscript is of the twelfth century. 
The rest of the manuscripts consist of the works of the 
Fathers, copies of the ' Anthologia,' and books for the 
Church service. 

The Arabic language is generally spoken at Jerusalem, 
though the Turkish is much used among the better class. 
The inhabitants are composed of people of different nations 

162 THE JEWS : Chap. XIV. 

and different religions, who inwardly despise one another 
on account of their varying opinions ; but, as the Christians 
are very numerous, there reigns among the whole no small 
degree of complaisance, as well as an unrestrained inter- 
course in matters of business, amusement, and even of 
religion. The Mussulmans, for instance, pray in all the 
holy places consecrated to the memory of Christ and the 
Virgin, except the tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, the sanc- 
tity of which they do not acknowledge, for they believe 
that Jesus Christ did not die, but that he ascended alive 
into heaven, leaving the likeness of his face to Judas, who 
was condemned to die for him ; and that, as Judas was 
crucified, it was his body, and not that of Jesus, which 
was placed in the sepulchre. It is for this reason that the 
Mussulmans do not perform any act of devotion at the 
tomb of the Holy Sepulchre, and that they ridicule the 
Christians who visit and revere it. 

The Jews — " the children of the kingdom" — have been 
cast out, and many have come from the east and the west 
to occupy their place in the desolate land promised to their 
fathers. Their quarter is in the narrow valley between 
the Temple and the foot of Mount Zion. Many of the 
Jews are rich, but they are careful to conceal their wealth 
from the jealous eyes of their Mahometan rulers, lest they 
should be subjected to extortion. 

It is remarkable that the Jews who are born in Jerusa- 
lem are of a totally different caste from those we see in 
Europe. Here they are a fair race, very lightly made, 
and particularly effeminate in manner ; the young men 
wear a lopk of long hair on each side of the face, which, 


with their flowing silk robes, gives them the appearance 
of women. The Jews of both sexes are exceedingly fond 
of dress ; and, although they assume a dirty and squalid 
appearance when they walk abroad, in their own houses 
they are to be seen clothed in costly furs and the richest 
silks of Damascus. The women are covered with gold, 
and dressed in brocades stiff with embroidery. Some of 
them are beautiful ; and a girl of about twelve years old, 
who was betrothed to the son of a rich old rabbi, was the 
prettiest little creature I ever saw ; her skin was whiter 
than ivory, and her hair, which was as black as jet, and 
was plaited with strings of sequins, fell in tresses nearly 
to the ground. She was of a Spanish family, and the 
language usually spoken by the Jews among themselves is 

The Jewish religion is now so much encumbered 
with superstition and the extraordinary explanations of 
the Bible in the Talmud, that little of the original creed 
remains. They interpret all the words of Scripture 
literally, and this leads them into most absurd mistakes. 
On the morning of the day of the Passover I went into the 
synagogue under the walls of the Temple, and found it 
crowded to the very door ; all the congregation were 
standing, up, with large white shawls over their heads 
with the fringes which they were commanded to wear by 
the Jewish law. They were reading the Psalms, and 
after I had been there a short time all the people 
began to hop about and to shake their heads and limbs in 
a most extraordinary manner; the whole congregation 
was in motion, from the priest, who was dancing in the 


reading-desk, to the porter, who capered at the door. 
All this was in consequence of a verse in the 35th 
Psalm, which says, " All my bones shall say, Lord, who 
is like unto thee ;" and this was their ludicrous manner 
of doing so. After the Psalm a crier went round the 
room, who sold the honour of performing different parts 
of the service to the highest bidder ; the money so 
obtained is appropriated to the relief of the poor. 
The sanctuary at the upper end of the room was then 
opened, and a curtain withdrawn, in imitation of that 
which separated the Holy of Holies from the body of the 
Temple. From this place the book of the law was 
taken : it was contained in a case of embossed silver, 
and two large silver ornaments were fixed on the 
ends of the rollers, which stuck out from the top of 
the case. The Jews, out of reverence, as I presume, 
touched it with a little bodkin of gold, and, on its 
being carried to the reading-desk, a silver crown was 
placed upon it, and a man, supported by two others, 
one on each side of him, chanted the lesson of the 
day in a loud voice : the book was then replaced in 
the sanctuary, and the service concluded. The women 
are not admitted into the synagogue, but are permitted 
to view the ceremonies from a grated gallery set apart 
for them. However, they seldom attend, as it seems 
they are not accounted equal to the men either in 
body or soul, and trouble themselves very little with 
matters of religion. 

The house of Rabbi A , with whom I was ac- 
quainted, answered exactly to Sir Walter Scott's 


description of the dwelling of Isaac of York. The 
outside of the house and the court-yard indicated 
nothing hut poverty and neglect; hut on entering I 
was surprised at the magnificence of the furniture. 
One room had a silver chandelier, and a great quan- 
tity of embossed plate was displayed on the top of the 
polished cupboards. Some of the windows were filled 
with painted glass ; and the members of the family, 
covered with gold and jewels, were seated on divans of 
Damascus brocade. The Rabbi's little son was so 
covered with charms in gold cases to keep off the evil 
eye, that he jingled like a chime of bells when he 
walked along ; and a still younger boy, whom I had 
never seen before, was on this day exalted to the dignity 
of wearing trousers, which were of red stuff, embroi- 
dered with gold, and were brought in by his nurse 
and a number of other women in procession, and borne 
on high before him as he was dragged round the room 
howling and crying without any nether garment on at 
all. He was walked round again after his superb 
trousers were put on, and very uncomfortable he seemed 
to be, but doubtless the honour of the thing consoled 
him, and he waddled out into the court with an air of 
conscious dignity. 

The learning of the rabbis is now at a very low ebb, 
and few of them thoroughly understand the ancient 
Hebrew tongue, although there are Jews of Jerusalem 
who speak several languages, and are said to be well 
acquainted with all the traditions of their fathers, and the 
mysterious learning of the Cabala. 


There ia in the Holy Land another division of the 
children of Israel, the Samaritans, who still keep up 
a separate form of religion. Their synagogue at 
Nablous is a mean building, not unlike a poor Ma- 
hometan mosque. Within it is a large, low, square 
chamber, the floor of which is covered with matting. 
Round a part of the walls is a wooden shelf, on which 
are laid above thirty manuscript books of the Penta- 
teuch written in the Samaritan character : they possess 
also a very famous roll or volume of the Pentateuch, 
which is said to have been written by Abishai the 
grandson of Aaron. It is contained in a curiously 
ornamented octagon case of brass about two feet high, 
on opening which the MS. appears within rolled upon 
two pieces of wood. It is sixteen inches wide, and must 
be of great length, as each of the two parts of the roll are 
four or five inches in diameter. The writing is small 
and not very distinct, and the MS. is in rather a dilapi- 
dated condition. The Samaritan Rabbi Ibrahim Israel, 
true to his Jewish origin, would not open the case until 
he had been well paid. He affirmed that in this MS. 
the blessings were directed to be given from Mount 
Ebal and the curses from Mount Gherizim. How. 
ever this may be, in an Arabic translation of the 
Samaritan Pentateuch, which is in my own collection, the 
12th and 13th verses of the 27th chapter of Deu- 
teronomy are the same as the usually received text in 
other Bibles. 

Jerusalem was at this time (1834) under the 
dominion of the. Egyptians, and Ibrahim Pasha arrived 


shortly after we had established ourselves in the 
vaulted dungeons of the Latin convent. He took up 
his abode in a house in the town, and did not maintain 
any state or ceremony; indeed he had scarcely any 
guards, and but few servants, so secure did he feel in 
a country which he had so lately conquered. He 
received us with great courtesy in his mean lodging, 
where we found an interpreter who spoke English. I 
had been promised a letter from Mohammed Ali 
Pasha to Ibrahim Pasha, but on inquiring I found it 
had not arrived, and Ibrahim Pasha sent a courier to 
Jaffa to inquire whether it was lying there ; however it 
did not reach me, and I therefore was not permitted to see 
the interior of the mosque of Omar, or the great church 
of the Purification, which stands on the site of the Temple 
of Solomon, and into which at that time no Christian had 

108 EXCURSIONS. Chap. XV. 


Expedition to the Monastery of St. Sabba — Reports of Arab Rob- 
bers—The Valley of Jehoshaphat— The Bridge of Al Sirat — 
Ragged Scenery — An Arab Ambuscade — A successful Parley — 
The Monastery of St. Sabba-— History of the Saint— The Greek 
Hermits — The Church— The Iconostasis — The Library — Nume- 
rous MSS. — The Dead Sea — The Scene of the Temptation — 
Discovery — The Apple of the Dead Sea — The Statements of 
Strabo and Pliny confirmed. 

As we wished to be present at the celebration of Easter by 
the Greek Church, we remained several weeks at Jerusa- 
lem, during which time we made various excursions to the 
most celebrated localities in the neighbourhood. In addi- 
tion to the Bible, which almost sufficed us for a guide book 
in these sacred regions, we had several books of travels 
with us, and I was struck with the superiority of old 
Maundrell's narrative over all the others, for he tells us 
plainly and clearly what he saw, whilst other travellers so 
encumber their narratives with opinions and disquisitions, 
that, instead of describing the country, they describe only 
what they think about it ; and thus little real information 
as to what there was to be seen or done could be gleaned 
from these works, eloquent and well written as many of 
them are; and we continually returned to Maundrell's 
homely pages for a good plain account of what we wished 
to know.. As, however, I had gathered from various inci- 
dental remarks in these books that there was a famous 
library in the monastery of St. Sabba, in which one might 
expect to find all the lost classics, whole rows of uncial 


manuscripts, and perhaps the histories of the Preadamite 
kings in the autograph of Jemshid, I determined to go and 
see it. 

It was of course necessary for every traveller at Jeru- 
salem to u do his Dead Sea ; " and accordingly we made 
arrangements for an excursion in that direction, which was 
to include a visit to St. Sabba ; for my companion kindly 
put up with my aberrations, and agreed to linger with me 
for that purpose on our way to Jericho, although it was at 
the risk of falling among thieves, for we heard all manner 
of reports of the danger of the roads, and of a certain tru- 
culent Robin Hood sort of person, called Abou Gash, who 
had just got out of some prison or other. 

Abou Gash was vastly popular in this part of the coun- 
try : everybody spoke well of him, and declared that " he 
was the mildest-mannered man that ever cut a throat or 
scuttled ship;" but they all hintetf that it might be as well 
to keep out of his way, and that, when we went cantering 
about the country, poking our noses into caves, and ruins, 
and other uncanny places, it would be advisable to keep a 
" good " look-out. For all this we cared little :. so, getting 
together our merry men, we sallied forth through St. Ste- 
phen's gate. A gallant band we were, some five-and- 
twenty horsemen, well armed in the Egyptian style ; with 
tents and kettles, cocks and hens, and cooks and marmi- 
tons, stowed upon the baggage-horses. Great store of good 
things had we — vino doro di Monte Libano, and hams, to 
show that we were not Mahometans ; and tea, to prove 
that we were not Frenchmen; and guns to shoot par- 
tridges withal, and many other European necessaries. 



We tramped along upon the hard rocky ground one 
after the other, through the Valley of Jehoshaphat ; 
and looked up at the corner of the temple, whence is 
to spring on the last day, as every sound follower of the 
Prophet believes, the fearful bridge of Al Sirat, which is 
narrower than the edge of the sharpest cimeter of Khoras- 
saun, and from which those who without due preparation 
attempt to pass on their way to the paradise of Mahomet 
will fall into the unfathomable gulf below. Gradually as 
we advanced into the valley, through which the brook 
.Kedron, when there is any water in it, flows into the Dead 
Sea, the scenery became more and more savage, the rocks 
more precipitous, and the valley narrowed into a deep 
gorge, the path being sometimes among the broken stones 
in the bed of the stream, and sometimes rising high above 
it on narrow ledges of rock. 

We rode on for some hours, admiring the wild grandeur 
of the scenery, for this is the hill country of Judea, and 
seems almost a chaos of rocks and craggy mountains, 
broken into narrow defiles, or opening into dreary valleys 
bare of vegetation, except a few shrubs whose tough roots 
pierce through the crevices of the stony soil, and find a 
scanty subsistence in the small portions of earth which the 
rains have washed from the surface of the rocks above, 
in one place the pathway, which was not more than two 
or three feet wide, wound round the corner of a precipi- 
tous crag in such a manner that a horseman riding along 
the giddy way showed so clearly against the sky that it 
seemed as if a puff of wind would blow horse and man into 
the ravine beneath. We were proceeding along this ledge 


— Fathallah, one of our interpreters, first, I second, and 
the others following — when we saw three or four Arabs 
with long bright-barrelled guns slip out of a crevice just 
before us, and take up their position on the path, pointing 
those unpleasant-looking implements in our faces. From 
some inconceivable motive, not of the most heroic nature I 
fear, my first move was to turn my head round to look 
behind me ; but when I did so, I perceived that some more 
Arabs had crept out of another cleft behind us, which we 
had not observed as we passed ; and on looking up I saw 
that from the precipice above us a curious collection 
of bright barrels and brown faces were taking an observa- 
tion of our party, while on the opposite side of the gorge, 
which was perhaps a hundred and fifty yards across, every 
fragment of rock seemed to have brought forth a man in a 
white tunic and bare legs, with a yellow handkerchief 
round his head, and a long'*gun in his hand, which 
he pointed towards us. 

We had fallen into an ambuscade, and one so cleverly 
laid that all attempt at resistance was hopeless. The path 
was so narrow that our horses could not turn, and a pre- 
cipice within a yard of us, of a hundred feet sheer down, 
rendered our position singularly uncomfortable. Fathal- 
lah 's horse came to a stand-still : my horse ran his nose 
against him and stood still too ; and so did all the rest of 
us. " Well !" said I, " Fathallah, what is this ? who are 
these gentlemen V " I knew it would be so," quoth 
Fathallah, " I was sure of it ! and in such a cursed place 
too ! — I see how it is, I shall never get home alive to 
Aleppo !" 

172 A FARLEY. Chap. XV. 

After waiting a while, I imagine to enjoy our confusion, 
one of the Arabs in front took up his parable and said, 
" Oh ! oh ! ye Egyptians !" (we wore the Egyptian dress) 
" what are you doing here, in our country 1 You are Ibra- 
him Pasha's men ; are you $ Say — speak ; what reason 
' have ye for being here ? for we are Arabs, and the sons 
of Arabs ; and this is our country, and our land ? " 

" Sir," said the interpreter with profound respect — for 
he rode first, and four or five guns were pointed directly 
at his breast — " Sir, we are no Egyptians ; thy servants 
are men of peace ; we are peaceable Franks, pilgrims 
from the holy city, and we are only going to bathe in the 
waters of the Jordan, as all pilgrims do who travel to the 
Holy Land." " Franks I" quoth the Arab ; " I know the 
Franks ; pretty Franks are ye ! Franks are the fathers 
of hats, and do not wear guns or swords, or red caps upon 
their heads, as you do. We shall soon see whether ye 
are Franks or not. Ye are Egyptians, and servants of 
Ibrahim Pasha the Egyptian : but now ye shall find that 
ye are* our servants ! " 

"Oh Sir," exclaimed I in the best Arabic I could 
muster, " thy servants are men of peace, travellers, anti- 
quaries all of us. Oh Sir, we are Englishmen, which is 
a sort of Frank — very harmless and excellent people, de- 
siring no evil. We beg you will be good enough to let us 
pass." "Franks!" retorted the Arab sheick, "pretty 
Franks! Franks do not speak Arabic, nor wear the 
Nizam dress ! Ye are men of Ibrahim Pasha's ; Egyp- 
tians, arrant Cairoites (Misseri) are ye all, every one of 
ye ;" and he and his followers laughed at us scornfully, 

Chap. XV. ARAB ESCORT. 171 

for we certainly did look very like Egyptians. " We are 
Franks, I tell you !" again exclaimed Fathallah : " Ibrahim 
Pasha, indeed ! who is he, I should like to know ? we are 
Franks ; and Franks like to see everything. We are going 
to see the monastery of St. Sabba ; we are not Egyptians ; 
what care we for Egyptians ? we are English Franks, 
every one of us, and we only desire to see the monastery 
of St. Sabba ; that is what we are, O Arab, son of an 
Arab (Arab beni Arab). We are no less than this, and 
no more ; we are Franks, as you are Arabs." 

Upon this there ensued a consultation between this son 
of an Arab and the other sons of Arabs, and in process 
of time the worthy gentlemen, knowing that it was im- 
possible for us to escape, agreed to take us to the monas- 
tery of St. Sabba, which was not far off, and there to hear 
what we had to say in our defence. 

The sheick waved his arm aloft as a signal to his men 
to raise the muzzle of their guns, and we were allowed to 
proceed ; some of the Arabs walking unconcernedly 
before us, and the others skipping like goats from rock to 
rock above us, and on the other side of the valley. They 
were ten times as numerous as we were, and we should 
have had no chance with them even on fair ground ; but 
here we were completely at their mercy. We were 
escorted in this manner the rest of the way, and in half 
an hour's time we found ourselves standing before the 
great square tower of the monastery of St. Sabba. The 
battlements were lined with Arabs, who had taken posses- 
sion of this strong place, and after a short parley and a 
clanging of arms within, a small iron door was opened in 


the wall : we dismounted and passed in ; our horses, one 
hy one, were pushed through after us. So there we were 
in the monastery of St. Sabba sure enough ; but under 
different circumstances from what we expected when we 
set out that morning from Jerusalem. 

Fathallah had, however, convinced the sheick of the 
Arabs that we really were Franks, and not followers of 
Ibrahim Pasha, and before long we not only were relieved 
from all fear, but became great friends with the noble and 
illustrious Abu Somebody, who had taken possession of 
St. Sabba and the defiles leading to it. 

This monastery, which is a very ancient foundation, is 
built upon the edge of the precipice at the bottom of which 
flows the brook Eedron, which in the rainy season becomes 
a torrent. The buildings, which are of immense strength, 
are supported by buttresses so massive that the upper part 
of each is large enough to contain a small arched chamber ; 
the whole of the rooms in the monastery are vaulted, and 
are gloomy and imposing in the extreme. The pyramidi- 
cal-shaped mass of buildings extends half-way down the 
rocks, and is crowned above by a high and stately square 
tower, which commands the small iron gate of the princi- 
pal entrance. Within there are several small irregular 
courts connected by steep flights of steps and dark arched 
passages, some of which are carried through the solid 

It was in one of the caves in these rocks that the 
renowned St. Sabba passed his time in the society of a 
pet lion. He was a famous anchorite, and was made chief 
of all the monks of Palestine by Sallustius, Patriarch of 


Jerusalem, about the year 490. He was twice ambassador 
to Constantinople to propitiate the Emperors Anastasius 
the Silent and Justinian ; moreover he made a vow never 
to eat apples as long as he lived. He was born at M utalasca, 
near Caesarea of Cappadocia, in 439, and died in 532, in the 
ninety-fifth year of his age : he is still held in high venera- 
tion by both the Greek and Latin churches. He was the 
founder of the Laura, which was formerly situated among 
the clefts and crevices of these rocks, the present monas- 
tery having been enclosed and fortified at I do not know 
what period, but long after the decease of the saint. 

The word laura, which is often met with in the histo- 
ries of the first five centuries after Christ, signifies, when 
applied to monastic institutions, a number of separate cells, 
each inhabited by a single hermit or anchorite, in contra- 
distinction to a convent or monastery, which was called a 
coenobium, where the monks lived together in one building 
under the rule of a superior. This species of monasticism 
seems always to have been a peculiar characteristic of the 
Greek Church, and in the present day these ascetic obser- 
vances are upheld only by the Greek, Coptic, and Abys- 
sinian Christians, among whom hermits and quietists, such 
as waste the* body for the improvement of the soul, are 
still to be met with in the clefts of the rocks and in the 
desert places of Asia and Africa. They are a sort of dis- 
senters as regards their own Church, for, by the mortifica- 
tions to which they subject themselves, they rebuke the 
regular priesthood, who do not go so far, although these 
latter fast in the year above one hundred days, and always 
rise to midnight prayer. In the dissent, if such it be, of 


these monks of the desert there is a dignity and self-deny- 
ing firmness much to be respected. They follow the 
tenets of their faith and the ordinances of their religion in 
a manner which is almost sublime. They are in thia 
respect the very opposite to European dissenters, who are 
as undignified as they are generally snug and cosy in their 
mode of life. Here, among the followers of St. Anthony, 
there are no mock heroics, no turning up of the whites of 
the eyes and drawing down of the corners of the mouth : 
they form their rule of life from the ascetic writings of the 
early fathers of the Church ; their self-denial is extreme, 
their devotion heroic ; but yet to our eyes it appears puerile 
and irrational that men should give up their whole lives to 
a routine of observances which, although they are hard 
and stern, are yet so trivial that they appear almost 

In one of the courts of the monastery there is a palm- 
tree, said to be endowed with miraculous properties, which 
was planted by St. Sabba, and is to be numbered among 
the few now existing in the Holy Land, lor at present 
they are very rarely to be met with, except in the vale 
of Jericho and the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea, 
in which localities, in consequence of their being so much 
beneath the level of the rest of the country, the tempera- 
ture is many degrees higher than it is elsewhere. 

The church is rather large and is very solidly built. 
There are many ancient frescos painted on the walls, and 
various early Greek pictures are hung round about : many 
of these are representations of the most famous saints, and 
mi the feast of each his picture is exposed upon a kind of 


desk before the iconostasis or wooden partition which 
divides the church from the sanctuary and the altar, and 
there it receives the kisses and oblations of all the worship- 
pers who enter the sacred edifice on that day. 

The ixovooVcWis is dimly represented in our older churches 
by the rood-loft and screen which divides the chancel from 
the nave : it is retained also in Lombardy and in the sees 
under the Ambrosian rule : but these screens and rood 
lofts, which destroy the beauty of a cathedral or any large 
church, are unknown in the Roman churches. They date 
their origin from the very earliest ages, when the " disci- 
pline of the secret" was observed, and when the ceremo- 
nies of the communion were held to be of such a sacred 
and mysterious nature that it was not permitted to the com- 
municants to reveal what then took place — an incompre- 
hensible custom which led to the propagation of many false 
ideas and strange rumours as to the Christian observances 
in the third and fourth centuries, and was one of the causes 
which led to several of the persecutions of the Church, as 
it was believed by the heathens that the Christians sacri- 
ficed children and committed other abominations for which 
they deserved extermination ; and so prone are the vulgar 
to give credence to such injurious reports, that the Chris- 
tians in later ages accused the Jews of the very same 
practices for which they themselves had in former times 
been held up to execration. 

In one part of the church I observed a rickety ladder 
eaning against the wall, and leading up to a small door 
about ten feet from the ground. Scrambling up this 
ladder, I found myself in the library of which I had heard 


178 NUMEROUS MSS. Chap. XV. 

so much. It was a small square room, or rather a large 
closet, in the upper part of one of the enormous buttresses 
which supported the walls of the Monastery. Here I 
found about a thousand books, almost all manuscripts, but 
the whole of them were works of divinity. One volume 
in the Bulgarian or Servian language was written in 
uncial letters ; the rest were in Greek, and were for the 
most part of the twelfth century. There were a great 
many enormous folios of the works of the fathers, and one 
MS. of the Octoteuch, or first eight books of the Old Tes- 
tament. It is remarkable how very rarely MSS. of any 
part of the old Testament are found in the libraries of 
Greek Monasteries ; this was the. only MS. of the Octo- 
teuch that I ever met with either before or afterwards in 
any part of the Levant. There were about a hundred 
other MSS. on a shelf in the apsis of the church : I was 
not allowed to examine them, but was assured that they 
were liturgies and church-books which were used on the 
various high days during the year. 

I was afterwards taken by some of t^e monks into the 
vaulted chambers of the great square tower or keep, which 
stood near the iron door by which we had been admitted. 
Here there were about a hundred MSS., but all imperfect; 
I found the ' Iliad ' of Homer among them, but it was on 
paper. Some of these MSS. were beautifully written ; 
they were, however, so imperfect, that in the short time I 
was there, and pestered as I was by a crowd of gaping 
Arabs, I was unable to discover what they were. 

I was allowed to purchase three MSS., with which the 
next day I and my companion departed on our way to the 

Chap. XV. THE DEAD SEA. 179 

Dead Sea, our friend the shelck having, from the moment 
that he was convinced that we were nothing better or 
worse than Englishmen and sight-seers, treated us with all 
manner of civility. 

On arriving at the Dead Sea I forthwith proceeded to 
bathe in it, in order to prove the celebrated buoyancy of 
the water, and was nearly drowned in the experiment, for, 
not being able to swim, my head got much deeper below 
the water than I intended. Two ignorant pilgrims, who 
had joined our party for protection, baptized each other in 
this filthy water, and sang psalms so loudly and discord- 
antly that we asked them what in the name of wonder 
they were about, when we discovered that they thought 
this was the Jordan, and were sorely grieved at their dis- 
appointment. We found several shells upon the shore and 
a small dead fish, but perhaps they had been washed down 
by the waters of the Jordan or the Eedron : I do not 
know how this may be. 

We wandered about for two or three days in this hot, 
volcanic, and sunken region, and thence proceeded to 
Jericho. The mountain of Quarantina, the scefte of the 
forty days' temptation of our Saviour, is pierced all over 
with the caves excavated by the ancient anchorites, and 
which look like pigeons' nests. Some of them are in the 
most extraordinary situations, high up on the face of 
tremendous precipices. However, I will not attempt to 
detail the singularities of this wild district ; we visited 
the chief objects of interest, and a big book that I brought 
from St. Sabba is endeared to my recollections by my 
having constantly made use of it as a pillow in mv tent 


during our wanderings. It was somewhat hard, undoubt- 
edly ; but after a long day's ride it served its purpose 
very well, and I slept as soundly as if it bad been read to 

At two subsequent periods I visited this region, and 
purchased seven other MSS. from St. Sabba ; among them 
was the Octoteuch of the tenth, if not the ninth, century, 
which I esteem one of the most rare and precious volumes 
of my library. 

We made a somewhat singular discovery when travel- 
ling among the mountains to the east of the Dead Sea, 
where the ruins of Ammon, Jerash, and Adjeloun well 
repay the labour and fatigue encountered in visiting them. 
It was a remarkably hot and sultry day: we were 
scrambling up the mountain through a thick jungle of 
bushes and low trees, when I saw before me a fine plum- 
tree, loaded with fresh blooming plums. I cried out to my 
fellow-traveller, " Now, then, who will arrive first at the 
plum-tree ?" and as he caught a glimpse of so refreshing 
an object, we both pressed our horses into a gallop to see 
which would get the first plum from the branches. We 
both arrived at the same moment ; and, each snatching at 
a fine ripe plum, put it at once into our mouths ; when, 
on biting it, instead of the cool delicious juicy fruit which 
we expected, our mouths were filled with a dry bitter dust, 
and we sat under the tree upon our horses sputtering, and 
hemming, and doing all we could to be relieved of the 
nauseous taste of this strange fruit. We then perceived, 
and to my great delight, that we had discovered the famous 
apple of the Dead Sea, the existence of which has been 


doubted and canvassed since the days of Strata and Pliny, 
who first described it. Many travellers hare given de- 
scriptions of other vegetable productions which bear some 
analogy to the one described by Pliny ; but up to this time 
no one had met with the thing itself, either upon the spot 
mentioned by the ancient authors, or elsewhere. I brought 
several of them to England. They are a kind of gall- 
nut. I found others afterwards upon the plains of Troy, 
but there can be no doubt whatever that this is the apple 
of Sodom to which Strata and Pliny referred. Some of 
those which I brought to England were given to the Lin 
naean Society, who published an engraving of them, and 
a description of their vegetable peculiarities, in their 
* Transactions ;' but as they omitted to explain the pecu- 
liar interest attached to them in consequence of their 
having been sought for unsuccessfully for above 1500 
years, they excited little attention ; though, as the evi- 
dence of the truth of what has so long been considered as 
a vulgar fable, they are fairly to be classed among the 
most curious productions which have been brought from 
the Holy Land. 



Church of the Holy Sepulchre— Processions of the Copts— The 
Syrian Maronites and the Greeks— Riotous Behaviour of the Pil- 
grims — Their immense numbers — The Chant of the Latin Monks 
— Ibrahim Pasha — The Exhibition of the Sacred Fire — Excite- 
ment of the Pilgrims — The Patriarch obtains the Sacred Fire 
from the Holy Sepulchre— Contest for the Holy Light— Immense 
sum paid for the privilege of receiving it first— Fatal Effects of 
the Heat and smoke — Departure of Ibrahim Pasha— Horrible 
Catastrophe — Dreadful Loss of Life among the Pilgrims in their 
endeavours to leave the Church— Battle with the Soldiers — Our 
Narrow Escape— Shocking Scene in the Court of the Church- 
Humane Conduct of Ibrahim Pasha— Superstition of the Pilgrims 
regarding Shrouds — Scallop Shells and Palm Branches— The 
Dead Muleteer— Moonlight View of the Dead Bodies— The 
Curse on Jerusalem — Departure from the Holy City. 

It was on Friday, the 3rd of May, that my companions 
and myself went, about five o'clock in the evening, to the 
church of the Holy Sepulchre, where we had places 
assigned us in the gallery of the Latin monks, as well as 
a good bed- room in their convent. The church was very 
full, and the numbers kept increasing every moment. 
We first saw a small procession of the Copts go round the 
sepulchre, and after them one of the Syrian Maronites. 
I then went to bed, and at midnight was awakened to see 
the procession of the Greeks, which was rather grand. By 
the rules of their Church they are not permitted to carry 
any images, and therefore to make up for this they bore 
aloft a piece of brocade, upon which was embroidered a 
representation of the body of our Saviour. This was 
placed in the tomb, and, after some short time, brought 


out again and carried into the chapel of the Greeks, when 
the ceremonies of the night ended ; for there was no pro* 
cession of the Armenians, as the Armenian Patriarch had 
made an address to his congregation, and had, it was said, 
explained the falsity of the miracle of the holy fire ; to 
the excessive astonishment of his hearers, who for centu- 
ries haVe considered an unshakable belief in this yearly 
wonder as one of the leading articles of their faith. After 
the Greek procession I went quietly to bed again, and 
slept soundly till next morning. 

The behaviour of the pilgrims- was riotous in the ex- 
treme ; the crowd was so great that many persons actually 
crawled over the heads of others, and some made pyramids 
of men by standing on each other's shoulders, as I have 
seen them do at Astley's. At one time, before the church 
was so full, they made a race-course round the sepulchre ; 
and some, almost in a state of nudity, danced about with 
frantic gestures, yelling and screaming as if they were 

Altogether it was a scene of disorder and profanation 
which it is impossible to describe. In consequence of the 
multitude of people and the quantities of lamps, the heat 
was excessive, and a steam arose which prevented- your 
seeing clearly across the church. But every window and 
cornice, and every place where a man's foot could rest, 
excepting the gallery — which was reserved for Ibrahim 
Pasha and ourselves — appeared to be crammed with 
people ; for 17,000 pilgrims were said to be in Jerusalem, 
almost the whole of whom had come to the Holy City for 
no other reason than to see the sacred fire. 


After the noise, heat, and uproar which I had witnessed 
from the gallery that overlooked the Holy Sepulchre, the 
contrast of the calmness and quiet of my room in the 
Franciscan convent was very pleasing. The room had a 
small window which opened upon the Latin choir, where, 
in the evening, the monks chanted the litany of the 
Virgin : their fine voices and the beautiful simplicity of 
the ancient chant made a strong impression upon my mind ; 
the orderly solemnity of the Roman Catholic vespers 
showing to great advantage when compared with the 
screams and tumult of the fanatic Greeks. 

The next morning a way was made through the crowd 
for Ibrahim Pasha, by the soldiers with the butt-ends of 
their muskets, and by the Janissaries with their kourbatches 
and whips made of a quantity of small rope. The Pasha 
sat in the gallery, on a divan which the monks had made 
for him between the two columns nearest to the Greek 
chapel. They had got up a sort of procession to do him 
honour, the appearance of which did not add to the so- 
lemnity of the scene ; three monks playing crazy fiddles 
led the way, then came the choristers with lighted candles, 
next two Nizam soldiers with muskets and fixed bayonets ; 
a number of doctors, instructors, and officers tumbling 
over each other's heels, brought up the rear : he was re- 
ceived by the women, of whom there were thousands in 
the church, with a very peculiar shrill cry, which had a 
strange unearthly effect. It was the monosyllable la, la, 
la, uttered in a shrill trembling tone, which I thought much 
more like pain than rejoicing. The Pasha was dressed in 



Sung by the Friars of St. Salvador at Jerusalem. 




Sane - ta Ma - ter Do - mi 

O - r«t 


^ -s- -fih -*- -*- -*- -d- ■&- «^& 

Sancta Maria — Ora pro nobis. 
Sancta Virgo Virginum — Ora pro nobis 
Imperatrix Reginarum — Ora pro nobis, 
Ltus sanctarum animarum — Ora pro nobis. 
Vera salutrix earum — Ora pro nobis. 


full trousers of dark cloth, a light lilac-coloured jacket, 
and a red cap without a turban. When he was seated, 
the monks brought us some sherbet, which was excellently 
made ; and as our seats were very near the great man, 
we saw everything in an easy and luxurious way ; and it 
being announced that the Mahomedan Pasha was ready, 
the Christian miracle, which had been waiting for some 
time, was now on the point of being displayed. 

The people were by this time become furious ; they 
were worn out with standing in such a crowd all night, 
and as the time approached for the exhibition of the holy 
fire they could not contain themselves for joy. Their ex- 
citement increased as the time for the miracle in which all 
believed drew near. At about one o'clock the Patriarch 
went into the ante-chapel of the sepulchre, and soon after 
a magnificent procession moved out of the Greek chapel. 
It conducted the Patriarch three times round the tomb ; 
after which he took off his outer robes of doth of silver, 
and went into the sepulchre, the door of which was then 
closed. The agitation of the pilgrims was now extreme : 
they screamed aloud ; and the dense mass of people shook 
to and fro, like a field of corn in the wind. 

There is a round hole in one part of the chapel over the 
sepulchre, out of which the holy fire is given, and up to 
this the man who had agreed to pay the highest sum for 
this honour was conducted by a strong guard of soldiers. 
There was silence for a minute ; and then a light appeared 
out of the tomb, and the happy pilgrim received the holy 
fire from the Patriarch within. It consisted of a bundle 

Chap. XVI. 



of thin wax-candles, lit, and enclosed 
in an iron frame to prevent their 
being torn asunder and put out in 
the crowd ; for a furious battle 
commenced immediately ; every one 
being so eager to obtain the holy 
light, that one man put out the can- 
dle of his neighbour in trying to 
light his own. It is said that as 
much as ten thousand piasters has 
been paid for the privilege of first receiving the holy fire, 
which is believed to ensure eternal salvation. The Copts 
got eight purses this year for the first candle they gave to 
a pilgrim of their own persuasion. 

This was the whole of the ceremony ; there was no 
sermon or prayers, except a little chanting during the* 
processions, and nothing that could tend to remind you of 
the awful event which this feast was designed to com 

Soon you saw the lights increasing in all directions, 
every one having lit his candle from the holy flame : 
the chapels, the galleries, and every corner where a 
candle could possibly be displayed, immediately appeared 
to be in a blaze. The people, in their frenzy, put the 
bunches of lighted tapers to their faces, hands, and breasts, 
to purify themselves from their sins. The Patriarch was 
carried out of the sepulchre in triumph, on the shoulders 
of the people he had deceived, amid the (fries and exclama- 
tions of joy which resounded from every nook of the 
immense pile of buildings. As he appeared in a fainting 


state, I supposed that he was ill ; but I found that it is the 
uniform custom on these occasions to feign insensibility, 
that the pilgrims may imagine he is overcome with the 
glory of the Almighty, from whose immediate presence 
they believe him to have returned. 

In a short time the smoke of the candles obscured every- 
thing in the place, and I could see it rolling in great vo- 
lumes out of the aperture at the top of the dome. The 
smell was terrible ; and three unhappy wretches, overcome 
by heat and bad air, fell from the upper range of galleries, 
and were dashed to pieces on the heads of the people 
below. One poor Armenian lady, seventeen years of age, 
died where she sat, of heat, thirst, and fatigue. 

After a while, when he had seen all that was to be seen, 
Ibrahim Pasha got up and went away, his numerous 
guards making a line for him by main force through the 
dense mass of people which filled the body of the church. 
As the crowd was so immense, we waited for a little while, 
and then set out all together to return to our convent. I 
went first and my friends followed me, the soldiers making 
way for us across the church. I got as far as the place 
where the Virgin is said to have stood during the cruci- 
fixion, when I saw a number of people lying one on 
another all about this part of the church, and as far as I 
could see towards the door. I made my way between 
them as well as I could, till they were so thick that there 
was actually a great heap of bodies on which I trod. It 
then suddenly struck me they were all dead ! I had not 
perceived this at first, for I thought they were only very 
much fatigued with the ceremonies and had lain down to 


rest themselves there : but when I came to so great a heap 
of bodies I looked down at them, and saw that sharp, hard 
appearance of the face which is never to be mistaken. 
Many of them were quite black with suffocation, and 
further on were others all bloody and covered with 
the brains and entrails of those who had been trodden 
to pieces by the crowd. 

At this time there was no crowd in this part of the 
church ; but a little further on, round the corner towards 
the great door, the people, who were quite panic-struck, 
continued to press forward, and every one was doing his 
"utmost to escape. The guards outside, frightened at the 
rush from within, thought that the Christians wished 
to attack them, and the confusion soon grew into a battle. 
The soldiers with their bayonets killed numbers of fainting 
wretches, and the walls were spattered with blood and 
brains of men who had been felled, like oxen, with the 
butt-ends of the soldiers' muskets. Every one struggled 
to defend himself or to get away, and in the melee all who 
fell were immediately trampled to death by the rest. So 
desperate and savage did the fight become, that even 
the panic-struck and frightened pilgrims appear at last to 
have been more intent upon the destruction of each other 
than desirous to save themselves. 

For my part, as soon as I perceived the danger, I had 
cried out to my companions to turn back, which they had 
done ; but I myself was carried on by the press till I came 
near the door, where all were fighting for their lives. 
Here, seeing certain destruction before me, I made every 
'ndeavour to get T>ack. An officer of the Pasha's, who by 


his star was a colonel or bin bashee, equally alarmed with 
myself, was also trying to return ; he caught hold of my 
cloak, or bou mouse, and pulled me down on the body of an 
old man who was breathing out his last sigh. As the 
officer was pressing me to the ground we wrestled together 
among the dying and the dead with the energy of despair. 
I struggled with this man till I pulled him down, and hap- 
pily got again upon my legs — (I afterwards found that he 
never rose again) — and scrambling over a pile of corpses, 
I made my way back into the body of the church, where I 
found my friends, and we succeeded in reaching the 
sacristy of the Catholics, and thence the room which had 
been assigned to us by the monks. The dead were lying 
in heaps, even upon the stone of unction ; and I saw full 
four hundred wretched people, dead and living, heaped 
promiscuously one upon another, in some places above five 
feet high. Ibrahim Pasha had left the church only a few 
minutes before me, and very narrowly escaped with his 
life ; he was so pressed upon by the crowd on all sides, 
and it was said attacked by several of them, that it was 
only by the greatest exertions of his suite, several of whom 
were killed, that he gained the outer court. He fainted 
more than once in the struggle, and I was told that some 
of his attendants at last bad to cut a way for him with 
their swords through the dense ranks of the frantic pil- 
grims. He remained outside, giving orders for the removal 
of the corpses, and making his men drag out the bodies of 
those who appeared to be still alive from the heaps of the 
dead. He sent word to us to remain in the convent till 
all the dead bodies had been removed, and that when 


we could come out in safety he would again send to 

We stayed in our room two hours before we ven- 
tured to make another attempt to escape from this 
scene of horror^ and then walking close together, with 
all our servants round us, we made a bold push and 
got out of the door of the church. By this time most 
of the bodies were removed ; but twenty or thirty were 
still lying in distorted attitudes at the foot of Mount 
Calvary; and fragments of clothes, turbans, shoes, and 
handkerchiefs, clotted with blood and dirt, were strewed 
all over the pavement. 

In the court in the front of the church, the sight 
was pitiable : mothers weeping over their children — 
the sons bending over the dead bodies of their fathers 
— and one poor woman was clinging to the hand of 
her husband, whose body was fearfully mangled. 
Most of the sufferers were pilgrims and strangers. 
The Pasha was greatly moved by this scene of woe; 
and he again and again commanded his officers to give 
the poor people every assistance in their power, and 
very many by his humane efforts were rescued from 

I was much struck by the sight of two old men with 
white beards, who had been seeking for each other 
among the dead; they met as I was passing by, and 
it yas affecting to see them kiss and shake hands, and 
congratulate each other on having escaped from 

When the bodies were removed many were discovered 


standing upright, quite dead ; and near the church door 
one of the soldiers was found thus standing, with his 
musket shouldered, among the bodies which reached 
nearly as high as his head ; s this was in a corner near the 
great door on the right side as you come in. It seems 
that this door had been shut, so that many who stood near 
it were suffocated in the crowd ; and when it was opened, 
the rush was so great that numbers were thrown down 
and never rose again, being trampled to death by the 
press behind them. The whole court before the entrance 
of the church was covered with bodies laid in rows, by the 
Pasha's orders, so that their friends might find them and 
carry them away. As we walked Tiome we saw 
numbers of people carried out, some dead, some 
horribly wounded and in a dying state, for they 
had fought with their heavy silver inkstands and 

In the evening I was not sorry to retire early to rest 
in the low vaulted room in the strangers' house attached to 
the monastery of St. Salvador. I was weary and de- 
pressed after the agitating scenes of the morning, and my 
lodging was not rendered more cheerful by there being a 
number of corpses laid out in their shrouds in the stone 
court beneath its window. It is thought by these super- 
stitious people that a shroud washed in the fountain of 
Siloam and blessed at the tomb of our Saviour forms a 
complete suit of armour for the body of a sinner deceased 
in the faith, and that clad in this invulnerable panoply he 
may defy the devil and all his angels. For this reason 
•very pilgrim when journeying has his shroud with him. 


with ail its different parts and bandages complete ; 
and to many they became useful sooner than they 
expected. A holy candle also forms part of a pil- 
grim's accoutrements. It has some sovereign virtue, but 
I do not exactly know what ; and they were all provided 
with several long thin tapers, and a rosary or two, and 
sundry rosaries and ornaments made of pearl oyster-shells 
— all which are defences against the powers of dark- 
ness. These pearl oyster-shells are, I imagine, the 
scallop-shell of romance, for there are no scallops to be 
found here. My companion was very anxious to obtain 
some genuine scallop-shells, as they form part of his 
arms ; but they, as well as the palm branches, carried 
home by all palmers on their return from the Holy Land, 
are as rare here as they are in England. This is the 
more remarkable, as the medal struck by Vespasian on 
the subjection of this country represents a woman in an 
attitude of mourning seated under a palm-tree with the 
legend " Judaea capta ;" so there may have been palms in 
those days. I was going to say there must have been : 
but on second thoughts it does not follow that there should 
have been palms in Judaea, because the Romans put them 
on a medal, any more than that there should be unicorns 
in England because we represent them on our coins* 
However, all this is a digression : we must return to our 
dead men. There were sixteen or seventeen of them, all 
stiff and stark, lying in the court, nicely wrapped up in 
their shrouds, like parcels ready to be sent off to the other 
world : but at the end of the row lay one man in a brown 
dress ; he was one of the lower class — a muleteer, per- 



haps, a strong, well-made man; but he was not in a 
shroud. He had died fighting, and there he lay with his 
knees drawn up, his right arm above his head, and in his 
hand the jacket of another man, which could not now be 
released from his grasp, so tightly had his strong hand 
been clenched in the death-struggle. This figure took a 
strong hold on my imagination ; there was something 
wild and ghastly in its appearance, different from the 
quiet attitude of the other victims of the fight in which 
I also had been engaged. It put me in mind of all 
manner of horrible old stories of ghosts and goblins with 
which my memory was well stored ; and I went to bed 
with my head so occupied by these traditions of gloom 
and ignorance that I could not sleep, or if I did for 
awhile, I woke up again and still went on thinking of the 
old woman of Berkeley, and the fire-king, and the stories 
in Scott's ' Discovery of Witchcraft,' and the ' Hier- 
archy of the Blessed Aungelles,' and Caxton's ' Golden 
Legende' — all books wherein I delighted to pore, till 
I could not help getting out of bed again to have 
another look at the ghastly regiment in the court 

I leant against the heavy stone mullions of the window, 
which was barred, but without glass, and gazed I know 
not how long. There they all were, still and quiet : some 
in the full moonlight, and some half obscured by the 
shadow of the buildings. In the morning I had walked 
with them, living men, such as I was myself, and now 
how changed they were ! Some of them I had spoken to, 
as they lived in the same court with me, and I had taken 


an interest in their occupations : now I would not willingly 
have touched them, and even to look at them was terrible ! 
What little difference there is in appearance between the 
same man asleep and dead ! and yet what a fearful differ- 
ence in fact, not to themselves only, but to those who still 
remained alive to look upon them ! Whilst I was musing 
upon these things the wind suddenly arose, the doors and 
shutters of the half- uninhabited monastery slammed and 
grated upon their hinges ; and as the moon, which had - 
been obscured, again shone clearly on the court below, I 
saw the dead muleteer with the jacket which he held 
waving in the air, the grimmest figure I ever looked upon. 
His face was black from the violence of his death, and he 
seemed like an evil spirit waving on his ghastly crew ; and 
as the wind increased, the shrouds of some of the dead men 
fluttered in the night air as if they responded to his call. 
The clouds, passing rapidly over the moon, cast such 
shadows on the corpses in their shrouds, that I could almost 
have fancied they were alive again. I returned to bed, 
and thanked God that I was not also laid out with them in 
the court below. 

In the morning I awoke at a late hour and looked out 
into the court ; the muleteer and most of the other bodies 
were removed, and people were going about their business 
as if nothing had occurred, excepting that every now and 
then I heard the wail of women lamenting for the dead. 
Three hundred was the number reported to have been 
carried out of the gates to their burial-places that morn, 
ing ; two hundred more were badly wounded, many of 
whom probably died, for there were no physicians or 


Burgeons to attend them, and it was supposed that others 
were buried in the courts and gardens of the city by their 
surviving friends ; so that the precise number of those 
who perished was not known. 

When we reflect in what place and to commemorate 
what event the great multitude of Christian pilgrims had 
assembled from all parts of the world, the fearful visitation 
which came upon them appears more dreadful than if it 
had occurred under other circumstances. They had 
entered the sacred walls to celebrate the most joyful event 
which is recorded in the Scriptures. By the resurrection 
of our Saviour was proved not only his triumph over the 
grave, but the truth of the religion which He taught ; and 
the anniversary of that event has been kept in all succeed- 
ing ages as the great festival of the Church. On the 
morning of this hallowed day throughout the Christian 
"world the bells rang merrily, the altars were decked with 
flowers, and all men gave way to feelings of exultation 
and joy ; in an hour everything was turned to mourning, 
lamentation, and woe ! 

There was a time when Jerusalem was the most pros- 
perous and favoured city of the world ; then " all her 
ways were pleasantness, and all her paths were peace ; " 
" plenteousness was in her palaces;" and "Jerusalem 
was the joy of the whole earth." 

But since the awful crime which was committed there, 
■Jie Lord has poured out the vials of his wrath upon the 
once chosen city ; dire and fearful have been the calami- 
ties which have befallen her in terrible succession for 
eighteen hundred years. Fury and desolation, hand in 


hand, have stalked round the precincts of the guilty spot ; 
and Jerusalem has been given up to the spoiler and the 

The day following the occurrences which have been 
related, I had a *ong interview with Ibrahim Pasha, and 
the conversation turned naturally on the blasphemous 
impositions of the Greek and Armenian patriarchs, who, 
for the purposes of worldly gain, had deluded their igno- 
rant followers with the performance of a trick in relighting 
the candles which had been extinguished on Good Friday 
with fire which they affirmed to have been sent down from 
heaven in answer to their prayers. The Pasha was quite 
aware of the evident absurdity which I brought to his 
notice, of the performance of a Christian miracle being 
put off for some time, and being kept in waiting for the 
convenience of a Mahometan prince. It was debated what 
punishment was to be awarded to the Greek patriarch for 
the misfortunes which had been the consequence of his 
jugglery, and a number of the purses which he had re- 
ceived from the unlucky pilgrims passed into the coffers 
of the Pasha's treasury. I was sorry that the falsity of 
this imposture was not publicly exposed, as it was a good 
opportunity of so doing. It seems wonderful that so bare- 
faced a trick should continue to be practised every year 
in these enlightened times ; bnt it has its parallel in the 
blood of St. Januarius, which is still liquefied whenever 
anything is to be gained by the exhibition of that astonish- 
ing act of priestly impertinence. If Ibrahim Pasha had been 
a Christian, probably this would have been the last Easter 
of the lighting of the holy fire ; but from the fact of hie 


religion being opposed to that of the monks, he could not 
follow the example of Louis XIV., who having put a stop 
to some clumsy imposition which was at that time bringing 
scandal on the Church, a paper was found nailed upon the 
door of the sacred edifice the day afterwards, on which 
the words were read — 

" De part du roi, defense a Dieu 
De faire miracle en ce lieu." 

The interference of a Mahometan in such a case as 
this would only have been held as another persecution of 
the Christians ; and the miracle of the holy fire has con- 
tinued to be exhibited every year with great applause, 
and luckily without the unfortunate results which accom- 
panied it on this occasion. 

Ibrahim Pasha, though by no means the equal of 
Mehemet Ali in talents or attainments, was an enlightened 
man for a Turk. Though bold in battle, he was kind to 
those who were about him ; and the cruelties practised by 
his troops in the Greek and Syrian wars are to be ascribed 
more to the system of Eastern warfare than to the savage 
disposition of their commander. 

He was born at Cavalla, in Roumelia, in the year 1789, 
and died at Alexandria on the 10th of November, 1848. 
He was the son, according to some, of Mehemet Ali, but, 
according to others, of the wife of the great Viceroy of 
Egypt by a former husband. At the age of seventeen he 
ioined his father's army, and in 1816 he commanded the 
expedition against the Wahabees — a sect who maintained 
that nothing but the Koran was to be held in any estima- 
tion by Mahometans, to the exclusion of all notes, expla- 


nations, and commentaries, which have in many cases 
usurped the authority of the text. They called themselves 
reformers, and, like King Henry VIII., took possession of 
the golden water-spouts and other ornaments of the Kaaba, 
hurned the books and destroyed the colleges of the Arabian 
theologians, and carried off everything they could lay hold 
of, on religious principles. An eye-witness told me that 
some of the followers of Abd el Wahab had found a good- 
sized looking-glass in a house at Sanaa, which they were 
carrying away with great difficulty through the desert, 
the porters being guarded by a multitude of half-naked 
warriors, who had neglected all other plunder in the sup- 
position that they had got hold of the diamond of Jemshid, 
a pre- Adamite monarch famous in the annals of Arabian 
history. Some more of these wild people found several 
bags of doubloons at Mocha, which they conceived to be 
dollars that had been spoiled somehow, and had turned 
yellow, for they had never seen any before. A " smart" 
captain of an American vessel at Jedda, who was con- 
sulted on the occasion, kindly gave them one real white 
dollar for four yellow ones — an arrangement which per- 
fectly satisfied both parties. After three years' campaign, 
Ibrahim Pasha retook the holy cities of Mecca and 
Medina; and in December, 1819, he made his triumphant 
entry into Cairo, when he was invested with the title of 
Vizir and made Pasha of the Hedjaz by the Sultan — a 
dignity more exalted than that of the Pasha of Egypt. 

In 1824 he commanded the armies of the Sultan, which 
were sent to put down the rebellion of the Greeks : he 
tailed from Alexandria with a fleet of 163 vessels, 16,000 


infantry, 700 cavalry, and four regiments of artillery. 
Numerous captives were made in the Morea, and the 
slave-markets were stocked with Greek women and chil. 
dren who had been captured by the soldiers of the Turk- 
ish army. The battle of Navarino, in 1827, ended in the 
destruction of the Mahometan fleets; and thousands of 
slaves, who were forced to fight against their intended de- 
liverers, being chained to their guns, sunk with the ships 
which were destroyed by the cannon of the allied forces 
of England, France, and Russia. 

In 1831 Mehemet Ali undertook to wrest Syria from 
the Sultan his master. Ibrahim Pasha commanded his 
army of about 30,000 men, under the tuition, however, of 
a Frenchman, Colonel Seve, who had denied the Christian 
faith on Christmas-day, and was afterwards known as 
Suleiman Pasha. The Egyptian troops soon became 
masters of the Holy Land ; Gaza, Jaffa, Jerusalem, and 
Acre fell before their victorious arms ; and on the 22nd 
of December, 1832, Ibrahim Pasha, with an army of 
30,000 men, defeated 60,000 Turks at Koniah, who had 
been sent against him by Sultan Mahmoud, under the 
command of Reschid Pasha. 

Ibrahim had advanced as far as Kutayeh, on his way 
to Constantinople, when his march was stopped by the 
interference of European diplomacy. The Sultan, having 
made another effort to recover his dominions in Syria, sent 
an army against Ibrahim, which was utterly routed at the 
battle of Negib, on the 24th of June, 1839. 

This defeat was principally owing to the Seraskier (the 
Turkish general) refusing to follow the counsels of Joch* 


mus Pasha, a German officer, who, in distinguished con* 
trast to the unhappy Suleiman, retained the religion of his 
fathers and the esteem of honest men. 

His career was again checked by European policy, 
which, if it had any right to interfere at all, would have 
benefited the cause of humanity more by doing so before 
Egypt was drained of nearly all its able-bodied men, and 
Syria given up to the horrors of a long and cruel war. 

The great powers of England, Austria, Russia, and 
Prussia now combined to restore the wasted provinces of 
Syria to the Porte ; a fleet menaced the shores of the 
Holy Land ; Acre was attacked, and taken in four hours 
by the accidental explosion of a powder-magazine, which 
almost destroyed what remained from former sieges of the 
habitable portion of the town. Ibrahim Pasha evacuated 
Syria, and retired to Egypt, where he amused himself 
with agriculture, and planting trees, always his favourite 
pursuit : the trees which he had planted near Cairo have 
already reduced the temperature in their vicinity several 

In 1846 he went to Europe for the benefit of his health, 
and extended his tour to England, where he was much 
struck with the industry that pervaded all classes, and its 
superiority in railways and works of utility to the other 
countries of Europe. " Yes," said he to me at Mivart's 
Hotel ; " in France there is more fantasia ; in England 
there is more roast beef." I observed that he was sur- 
prised at the wealth displayed at one or two parties in 
some great houses in London at which he was present. 

Whether he had lost his memory in any degree at that 



time, I do not 'know ; but on my recalling to him the great 
danger he had been in at Jerusalem, of which he enter- 
tained a very lively recollection, he could not remember 
the name of the Bey who was killed there, although he 
was the only person of any rank in his suite, with the 
exception of Selim Bey Selicdar, his swordbearer, with 
whom I afterwards became acquainted in Egypt. 

In consequence of the infirmities of Mehemet Ali, whose 
great mind had become unsettled in his old age, Ibrahim 
was promoted by the present Sultan to the Vice-royalty of 
Egypt, on the 1st of September, 1848. His constitution, 
which had long been undermined by hardship, excess, and 
want of care, gave way at length, and on the 10th *of 
November of the same year his body was carried to the 
tomb which his father had prepared for his family near 
Cairo, little thinking at the time that he should live to sur- 
vive his sons Toussoun, Ismail, and Ibrahim, who have all 
descended before him to their last abode. 

In personal appearance Ibrahim Pasha was a short, 
broad-shouldered man, with a red face, small eyes, and a 
heavy though cunning expression of countenance. He 
was as brave as. a lion ; his habits and ideas were rough 
and coarse ; he had but little refinement in his composi- 
tion ; but, although I have often seen him abused for his 
cruelty in European newspapers, I never heard any well - 
authenticated anecdote of his cruelty, and do not believe 
that he was by any means of a savage disposition, nor that 
his troops rivalled in any way the horrors committed in 
Algeria by the civilized and fraternising French. He 
was a bold, determined soldier. He had that reverence 


and respect for his father which is so much to be admired 
in the patriarchal customs of the East ; and it is not every 
one who has lived for years in the enjoyment of absolute 
power uncontrolled by the admonitions of a Christian's 
conscience that could get out of the scrape so well, or 
leave a better name upon the page of history than that of 
Ibrahim Pasha. 

After the fearful catastrophe in the church of the Holy 
Sepulchre, the whole host of pilgrims seem to have become 
panic struck, and every one was anxious to escape from 
the city. There was a report, too, that the plague had 
broken out, and we with the rest made instant preparation 
for our departure. In consequence of the numbers who 
had perished, there was no difficulty in hiring baggage- 
horses; and we immediately procured as many as we 
wanted : tents were loaded on some ; beds and packages 
of all sorts and sizes were tied on others, with but slight 
regard to balance and compactness ; and on the afternoon 
of the 6th of May we rejoiced to find ourselves once more 
out of the walls of Jerusalem, and riding at our leisure 
along the pleasant fields fresh with the flowers of spring, 
a season charming in all countries, but especially delight- 
ful in the sultry climate of the Holy Land. 




Albania— Igmorance at Corfu concerning that Country — Its report- 
ed abundance of Game and Robbers — The Disturbed State of the 
Country— The Albanians — Richness of their Arms — Their free 
we of them— Comparative 'Safety of Foreigners — Tragic Fate of 
a German Botanist — Arrival at Gominitza — Ride to Paramathia 
— A Night's Bivouac — Reception at Paramathia— Albanian Ladies 
— Yanina — Albanian Mode of settling a Quarrel — Expected 
Attack from Robbers — A Body-Guard Mounted— Audience with 
the Vizir — His Views of Criminal Jurisprudence — Retinue of 
the Vizir— His Troops — Adoption of the European Exercises — 
Expedition to Berat — Calmness and Self-possession of the Turks 
— Active Preparations for Warfare— Scene at the Bazaar — 
Valiant Promises of the Soldiers. 

Corfu, Friday, Oct 31, 1834. — I found I could get no 
information respecting Albania at Corfu, though the high 
mountains of Epirus seemed almost to overhang the 
island. No one knew anything about it, except that it 
was a famous place for snipes ! It appeared never to have 
struck traveller or tourist that there was anything in 
Albania except snipes ; whereof one had shot fifteen 
brace, and another had shot many more, only he did not 
bring them home, having lost the dead birds in the 
bushes. There were some woodcocks also, it was 
generally believed, and some spake of wild boars, but 
I had not the advantage of meeting with anybody 
who could specifically assert that he had shot one : and 


besides these there were robbers in multitudes. As 
to that point every one was agreed. Of robbers there 
was no end : and just at this particular time there 
was a revolution, or rebellion, or pronunciamiento, or 
a general election, or something of that sort, going 
on in Albania ; for all the people who came over 
from thence said that the whole country was in a 
ferment. In fact there seemed to be a general uproar 
taking place, during which each party of the free and 
independent mountaineers deemed it expedient to show 
their steady adherence to their own side of the question 
by shooting at any one they saw, from behind a stone or a 
tree, for fear that person might accidentally be a partizan 
of the opposite faction. 

The Albanians are great dandies about their arms: 
the scabbard of their yataghan, and the stocks of their 
pistols, are almost always of silver, as well as their 
three or four little cartridge boxes, which are frequently 
gilt, and sometimes set with garnets and coral ; an 
Albanian is therefore worth shooting, even if he is not 
of another way of thinking from the gentleman who 
shoots him. As 1 understood, however, that they did 
not shoot so much at Franks because they usually have 
little about them worth taking, and are not good to eat, I 
conceived that I should not run any great risk ; and I 
resolved, therefore, not to be thwarted in my intention of 
exploring some of the monasteries of that country. There 
is another reason also why Franks are seldom molested in 
the East—- every Arab or Albanian knows that if a Frank 
has a gun in his hand, which he generally has, there are 


two probabilities, amounting almost to certainties, with 
respect to that weapon. One is, that it is loaded ; and the 
other that, if the trigger is pulled, there is a considerable 
chance of its going off. Now these are circumstances 
which apply in a much slighter degree to the maga- 
zine of small arms which he carries about his own 
person. But, beyond all this, when a Frank is shot there 
is such a disturbance made about it ! Consuls write let- 
ters — pashas are stirred up— guards, kawasses, and tatars 
gallop like mad about the country, and fire pistols 
in the air, and live at free quarters in the villages ; 
the murderer is sought for everywhere, and he, or 
somebody else, is hanged to please the consul ; in addition 
to which the population are beaten with thick sticks ad 
libitum. All this is extremely disagreeable, and there- 
fore we are seldom shot at, the pastime being too dearly 
paid for. 

The last Frank whom I heard of as having been 
killed in Albania was a German, who was studying 
botany. He rejoiced in a blue coat and brass buttons, 
and wandered about alone, picking up herbs and 
flowers on the mountains, which he put carefully into a 
tin box. He continued unmolested for some time, the 
universal opinion being that he was a powerful magician, 
and that the herbs he was always gathering would 
enable him to wither up his enemies by some dreadful 
charm, and also to detect every danger which menaced 
him. Two or three Albanians had watched him for 
several days, hiding themselves carefully behind the 
rocks whenever the philosopher turned towards them ; 


and at last one of the gang, commending himself to all 
his saints, rested his long gun upon a stone and shot the 
German through the body. The poor man rolled over, 
but the Albanian did not venture from his hiding- 
place until he had loaded his gun again, and then, after 
sundry precautions, he* came out, keeping his eye 
upon the body, and with his friends behind him, to 
defend him in case of need. The botanizer, however, 
was dead enough, and the disappointment of the 
Albanians was extreme, when they found that his buttons 
were brass and not gold, for it was the supposed 
value of these precious ornaments that had incited 
them to the deed. 

I procured some letters of introduction to different 
persons, sent my English .servant and most of my 
effects to England, and hired a youth to act in the 
double capacity of servant and interpreter during the 
journey. One of my friends at Corfu was good enough 
to procure me the use of a great boat, with I do not 
know how many oars, belonging to government; and 
in it I was rowed over the calm bright sea twenty-four 
miles to Gominitza, where I arrived in five hours. 
Here I hired three horses with pack-saddles, one for 
m y baggage one f° r m y servant, and one for myself; 
and away we went towards Paramathia, which place 
we were told was four hours off. Paramathia is said 
to be built upon the site of Dodona, although the 
exact situation of the oracle is not ascertained; but 
some of the finest bronzes extant were found there 
thirty or forty years ago, part of which went to 


Russia, and part came into the possession of Mr. 
Hawkins, of Bignor, in Sussex, where they are still 

Our horses were not very good, and our roads were 
worse ; and we scrambled and stumbled over the rocks, up 
and down hill, all the afternoon, without approaching, as it 
seemed to me, towards any inhabited place. It was now 
becoming dark, and the muleteers said we had six hours 
more to do; it was then seven o'clock, p.m.; we could see 
nothing, and were upon the top of a hill, where there were 
plenty of stones and some low bushes, through which we 
were making our way vaguely, suiting ourselves as to a 
path, and turning our faces towards any point of the com- 
pass which we thought most agreeable, for it did not 
appear that any of the party knew the way. We now 
held a council as to what was best to be done ; and as we 
saw lights in some houses about a mile off, I desired one of 
the muleteers to go there and see if we could get a lodging 
for the night. " Go to a house ?" said the muleteer, " you 
don't suppose we could be such fools as to go to a house in 
Albania, where we know nobody?" "No!" said I, 
" why not ?" " Because we should be murdered, of 
course," said he ; " that is if they thought themselves 
strong enough to venture to undo their doors and let us in ; 
otherwise they would pretend there was nobody in the 
house, or fire at us out of the window and set the dogs at 

us ; or " " Oh !" I replied, " that is quite sufficient ; 

I have no desire to trouble your excellent countrymen, 
only I don't precisely see what else we are to do just now 
on the top of this hill. How are they off for wolves in thur 

Chap. XVII. A night's BIVOUAC. 20* 

neighbourhood ?" " Why," quoth my friend, " I hope 
you understand that if anything happens to my horses you 
are bound to reimburse me: as for ourselves, we are 
armed, and must take our chance ; but I don't think there 
are many wolves here yet ; they don't come down from 
the mountains quite so soon : though certainly it is getting 
cold already. But we had better sleep here at all events, 
and at dawn we shall be able, perhaps, to make out a little 
better where we have got to." There being nothing else 
for it, we tied the horses' legs together, and I lay down on 
a travelling carpet by the side of my servant, under the 
cover of a bush. Awfully cold it was : the horses trem- 
bled and shook themselves every now and then, and held 
their heads down, and I tried all sorts of postures in hopes 
of making myself snug, but every change was from bad to 
worse ; I could not get warm any how, and a remarkable 
fact was, that the more sharp stones I picked out from 
under the carpet, the more numerous and sharper were 
those that remained : my only comfort was to hear the 
muleteers rolling about too, and anathematizing the stones 
most lustily. However, I went to sleep in course of time, 
and was, as it appeared to me, instantaneously awakened 
by some one shaking me, and telling me it was four o'clock 
and time to start. It was still as dark as ever, except that 
a few stars were visible, and we recommenced our journey, 
stumbling and scrambling about as we had done before, 
till we came to a place where the horses stopped of their 
own accord. This it seemed was a ledge of rock above a 
precipice, about two hundred feet deep, as I judged by the 
reflection of the stars in the stream which ran below. The 


dimness of the light made the place look more dangerous 
and difficult than perhaps it really was. It seems, however, 
that we were lucky in finding it, for there was no other way 
off the hill except by this ledge, which was about twelve 
feet broad. We got off our horses and led them down ; 
they had probably often been there before, for they made 
no difficulty about it, and in a few hundred yards, the road 
becoming better, we mounted again, and after five hours' 
travelling arrived at Paramathia. Just before entering the 
place we met a party on foot, armed to the teeth, and all 
carrying their long guns. One of these gentlemen politely 
asked me if I had a spare purse about me, or any money 
which I could turn over to his account ; but as I looked 
very dirty and shabby, and as we were close to the town, 
he did not press his demand, but only asked by which road 
I intended to leave it. I told him I should remain there 
for the present, and as we had now reached the houses, he 
took his departure, to my great satisfaction. 

On inquiring for the person to whom I had a letter of 
introduction, I found he was a shopkeeper who sold cloth 
in the bazaar. We accordingly went to his shop and 
found him sitting among his merchandise. When he had 
read the letter he was very civil, and shutting up his shop, 
walked on before us to show me the way to his house. It 
was a very good one, and the best room was immediately 
given up to me, two old ladies and three or four young 
ones being turned out in a most summary manner. One 
or two of the girls were very pretty, and they all vied 
with each other in their attentions to their guest, looking 
at me with great curiosity, and perpetually peeping at me 


through the curtain which hung over the door, and running 
away when they thought they were observed. 

The prettiest of these damsels had only been married a 
short time : who her husband was, or where he lived, I 
could not make out, but she amused me by her anxiety to 
display her smart new clothes. She went and put on a 
new capote, a sort of white frock coat, without sleeves, 
embroidered in bright colours down the seams, which 
showed her figure to advantage ; and then she took it off 
again, and put on another garment, giving me ample oppor- 
tunity of admiring its effect. I expressed my surprise and 
admiration in bad Greek, which, however, the fair Alba- 
nian appeared to find no difficulty in understanding. She 
kindly corrected some of my sentences, and I have no 
doubt I should have improved rapidly under her care, 
if she had not always run away whenever she heard 
any one creaking about on the rickety boards of the 
anteroom and staircase. The other ladies, who were set- 
tling themselves in a large gaunt room close by, kept up 
an interminable clatter, and displayed such unbounded 
powers of conversation, that it seemed impossible that any 
one of them could hear what all the others said ; till at 
last the master of the house came up again, and then 
there was a lull. He told me that I could not hire horses 
till the afternoon, and as that would have been too late to 
start, I determined to remain where I was till the next 
morning. I passed the day in wandering about the place, 
and considering whether, upon the whole, the dogs or the 
men of Paramathia were the most savage : for the dogt 

312 YANINA. Chap. XVII. 

looked like wolves, and the men like arrant cut-throats, 
swaggering about, idle and restless, with their long hair, 
and guns, and pistols, and yataghans ; they have none of 
the composure of the Turks, who delight to sit still in a 
coffee-house, and smoke their pipes, or listen to a story, 
which saves them the trouble of thinking or speaking. 
The Albanians did not scream and chatter as the Arabs 
do, or as their ladies were doing in the houses, but they 
lounged about the bazaars listlessly, ready to pick a quar- 
rel with any one, and unable to fix themselves down to 
any occupation ; in short, they gave me the idea of being 
a very poor and proud, and good-for-nothing set of scamps. 
November 2nd. — The next morning at five o'clock I was 
on horseback again, and after riding over stones and rocks, 
and frequently in the bed of a stream, for fourteen hours, I 
arrived in the evening at Yanina. I was disappointed with 
the first view of the place. The town is built on the side of a 
sloping hill above the lake ; and as my route lay over the 
top of this hill, I could see but little of the town until I 
was quite among the houses, most of which were in a 
ruinous condition. The lake itself, with an island in it on 
which are the ruins of a palace built by the famous Ali 
Pasha, is a beautiful object ; but the mountains by which 
it is bounded on the opposite side are barren, yet not suffi- 
ciently broken to be picturesque. The scene altogether 
put me in mind of the Lake of Genesareth as seen from 
its western shore near Tiberias. There is a plain to the 
north and north-west, which is partially cultivated, but it 
is inferior in beauty to the plains of Jericho, and there is 

Chap. XVII. Y AN IN A. 213 

no river like the Jordac to light up the scene with its 
quick and sparkling waters as it glistens among the trees 
in its journey towards the lake. 

I went to the house of an Italian gentleman who was 
the principal physician of Yanina, and who I understood 
was in the habit of affording accommodation to travellers 
in his house. He received me with great kindness, and 
gave me an excellent set of rooms, consisting of a bed 
room, sitting room, and ante-room, all of them much better 
than those which I occupied in the hotel at Corfu : they 
were clean and nicely furnished ; and altogether the ex- 
cellence of my quarters in the dilapidated capital of Alba- 
nia surprised me most agreeably. 

The town appears never to have been repaired since the 
wars and revolutions which occurred at the time of Ali 
Pasha's death. The houses resemble those of Greece or 
southern Italy ; they are built, some of stone, and some of 
wood, with tiled roofs. On the walls of many of them 
there were vines growing. The bazaars are poor, yet I 
saw very rich arms displayed in some mean little shops, 
or stalls, as we should call them ; for they are all open, 
like the booths at a fair. The climate is rainy, and there 
is no lack of mud in wet weather, and dust when it is dry. 
The whole place had a miserable appearance, nothing 
seemed to be going on, and the people have a savage, 
hang-dog look. m 

I had a good supper and a good bed, and was awakened 
the next morning by hearing the servants loud in talk 
about the news of the day. The subject was truly Alba. 


nian. A man who had a shop in the bazaar had quarrelled 
yesterday with some of his fellow townsmen, and in the 
night they took him out of his bed and cut him to pieces 
with their yataghans on the hill above the town. Some 
people coming by early this morning saw various joints 
of this unlucky man lying on the ground as they passed. 

I occupied myself in looking about the place ; and 
having sent to the palace of the vizir to request an 
audience, it was fixed for the next day. There was not 
much to see ; but I afforded a subject of uninterrupted 
discussion to all beholders, as it appeared I was the only 
traveller who had been there for some time. I went to 
bed early because I had no books to read, and it was a 
bore trying to talk Greek to my host's family ; but I had 
not been asleep long before I was awakened by the intel- 
ligence that a party of robbers had concealed themselves 
in the ruins round the house, and that we should probably 
be attacked. Up we all got, and loaded our guns and 
pistols : the women kept flying about everywhere, and, 
when they ran against each other in the dark, screamed 
wofully, as they took everybody for a robber. We had 
no lights, that we might not afford good marks for the 
enemy outside, who, however, kept quiet, and did not 
shoot at us, although every now and then we saw a man 
or two creeping about among the ruins. My host, who 
was armed with a gun of prodigious length, was in a state 
of great alarm ; and, having sent for assistance, twenty 
soldiers arrived, who kept guard round the house, but 
would not venture among the ruins. These valiant heroes 


relieved each other during the night ; but, as no robbers 
made their appearance, I got tired of watching for them, 
and went quietly to bed again. / 

November 4lh. — At nine o'clock in the morning I paid 
my respects to the Vizir, Mahmoud Pasha, a man with a 
long nose, and who altogether bore a great resemblance to 
Pope Benedict XVI. I stayed some hours with him, talk- 
ing over Turkish matters ; and we got into a brisk argu- 
ment as to whether England was part of London, or Lon- 
don part of England. He appeared to be a remarkably 
good-natured man, and took great interest in the affairs of 
Egypt, from which country I had lately arrived, and asked 
me numberless questions about Mehemet Ali, comparing 
his character with that of Ali Pasha, who had built this 
palace, which was in a very ruinous state, for nothing had 
been expended to keep it in repair. The hall of audience 
was a magnificent room, richly decorated with inlaid work 
of mother-of-pearl and tortoiseshell : the ceiling was gilt, 
and the windows of Venetian plate-glass, but some of them 
were broken : the floor was loose and almost dangerous ; 
and two holes in the side walls, which had been made by 
a cannon-ball, were stopped up with pieces of deal board 
roughly nailed upon the costly inlaid panels. The divan 
was of red cloth ; and a crowd of men, with their girdles 
stuck full of arms, stood leaning on their long guns at the 
bottom of the room, listening to our conversation, and 
laughing loudly whenever a joke was made, but never 
coming forward beyond the edge of the carpet. 

The Pasha offered to give me an escort, as he said that 
the country at that moment was particularly unsafe ; but 


at length it was settled that he should give me a letter to 
the commander of the troops at Mezzo vo, who would sup- 
ply me with soldiers to see me safely to the monasteries 
of Meteora. When I arose to take my leave, he sent for 
more pipes and coffee, as a signal for me to remain ; in 
short, we became great friends. Whilst I was with him 
a pasha of inferior rank came in, and sat on the divan for 
half an hour without saying a single word or doing any- 
thing except looking at me unceasingly. After he had 
taken his departure we had some sherbet ; and at last I 
got away, leaving the Pasha in great wonderment at the 
English government paying large sums of money for the 
transportation of criminals, when cutting off their heads 
would have been so much more economical and expedi- 
tious. Incurring any expense to keep rogues and vaga. 
bonds in prison, or to send them away from our own 
country to be the plague of other lands, appeared to him 
to be an extraordinary act of folly ; and that thieves 
should be fed and clothed and lodged, while poor and 
honest people were left to starve, he considered to be con- 
trary to common sense and justice. I laughed at the time 
at what I thought the curious opinions of the Vizir of 
Yanina ; I have since come to the conclusion that there 
was some sense in his notions of criminal jurisprudence. 
In the afternoon, as I was looking out of the window of 
my lodging, I saw the Vizir going by with a great number 
of armed people, and I was told that in the present 
disturbed state of the country he never went out to take a 
ride without all these attendants. First came a hundred 
ancers on horseback, dressed in a kind of European wni 

Chap. XVII. THE VIZItt's KETIiNUfi. 217 

form ; then two horsemen, each with a pair of small kettle 
drums attached to the front of his saddle. They kept up 
an unceasing pattering upon these drums as they rode 
along. This is a Tartar or Persian custom ; and in some 
parts of Tartary the dignity of khan is conferred by strap- 
ping these two little drums on the back of the person whom 
the king delighteth to honour ; and then the king beats the 
drums as the new khan walks slowly round the court. 
Thus a thing is reckoned a great honour in one part of the 
world which in another is accounted a disgrace ; for when 
a soldier is incorrigible, we drum him out of the regiment, 
whilst the Tartar khan is drummed into his dignity. After 
the drummers came a brilliantly dressed company of 
kawasses, with silver pistols and yataghans ; then several 
trumpeters ; and alter them the Vizir himself on a fine tall 
horse ; he was dressed in the new Turkish Frank style, 
with the usual red cap on his head ; but he had an im- 
mense red cloth cloak sumptuously embroidered with gold, 
which quite covered him, so that no part of the great man 
was visible, except his two eyes, his nose, and one of his 
hands, upon which was a splendid diamond ring. Two 
grooms walked by the sides of his horse, each with one 
hand on the back of the saddle. Every one bowed as the 
Vizir went by; and I became a distinguished 'person from 
the moment that he gave me a condescending nod. The 
procession was closed by a crowd of officers and attend- 
ants on horseback, in gorgeous Albanian dresses, with 
silver bridles and embroidered housings. They carried 
what I thought at first were spears, but I soon discovered 
that they were long pipes ; there was quite a forest of 



them, of all lengths and sizes. When the Vizir was gone 
and the dust had subsided, I strolled out of the town on 
foot, when I came upon the troops, who were learning the 
new European exercise. Seeing a man sitting on a carpet 
in the middle of the plain, I went up to him and found that 
he was the colonel and commander of this army; so I 
smoked a pipe with him, and discovered that he knew 
about as much of tactics and military manoeuvres as I did, 
only he did not take so much interest in the subject. We 
therefore continued to smoke the pipe of peace on the car- 
pet of reflection, while the soldiers entangled themselves in 
all sorts of incomprehensible doublings and counter- 
marches, till at last the whole body was so much puzzled, 
that they stood still all of a heap, like a cluster of bees. 
The captains shouted, and the poor men turned round and 
round, trod on each other's heels, kicked each other's 
shins, and did all they could to get out of the scrape, but 
they only got more into confusion. At last a bright 
thought struck the colonel, who took his pipe out of his 
mouth, and gave orders, in the name of the Prophet, that 
every man should go home in the best way he could. 
This they accomplished like a party of schoolboys, run- 
ning and jumping and walking off in small parties towards 
the town. The officers wiped the perspiration from their 
foreheads, and strolled off too, some to smoke a pipe under 
a tree, and some to repose on their divans and swear at the 
Franks who had invented such extraordinary evolutions. 

In the evening, among the other news of the day, 1 was 
told that three men had been walking together in the after. 
noon ; one of them bought a melon, and his two com- 


panions, who were very thirsty, but had no money, askeo 
him to give them some of it. He would not do so ; and, 
as they worried him about it, he ran into an empty house, 
and, bolting the door, sat down inside to discuss his pur- 
chase in quiet. The other two were determined not to be 
jockeyed in that manner, and, finding a hole in the door, 
they peeped through, and were enraged at seeing him eat- 
ing the melon inside. He jeered them, and said that the 
melon was excellent ; until at last one of them swore he 
should not eat it all, and, putting his pistol through the 
hole in the door, shot his friend dead ; they then walked 
away, laughing at their own cleverness in shooting him so 
neatly through the hole* 

November 5ih. — The next day I went again to the 
citadel to see the Vizir, but he could not receive me, as 
news had arrived that the insurgents or robbers — they had 
entitled themselves to either denomination — had gathered 
together in force and laid siege to the town of Berat. 
There had been a good deal of confusion in Yanina before 
this, but now it appeared to have arrived at a climax. The 
courtyard of the citadel was full of horses picketed by their 
head-and-heel ropes, in long rows ; parties of men were, 
according to their different habits, talking over the events 
of the day, — the Albanians chattering and putting them- 
selves in attitudes ; the Arnaouts or Mahometans of Greek 
blood boasting of thechivalric feats which they intended to 
perform ; and the grave Turks sitting quietly on the 
ground, smoking their eternal pipes, and taking it all as 
easily as if they had nothing to do with it. Both before 
and since these days I have seen a great deal of the 


Turks; and though, for many reasons, I do not respect 
them as a nation, still I cannot help admiring their calm- 
ness and self-possession in moments of difficulty and 
danger. There is something noble and dignified in their 
quietness on these occasions : I have very rarely seen a 
Turk discomposed ; stately and collected, he sits down and 
bides his time ; but when the moment of action comes, he 
will rouse himself on a sudden, and become full of fire, 
animation, and activity. It is then that you see the 
descendant of those conquerors of the East, whose strong 
will and fierce courage have given them the command 
over all the nations of Islam. 

Although I could not obtain an audience with the vizir, 
one of the people who were with me managed to send a 
message to him that I should be glad of the letter, or firman, 
which he had promised me, and by which I might com- 
mand the services of an escort, if I thought fit to do so. 
This man had influence at court ; for he had a friend who 
was chiboukji to the vizir's secretary, or prime minister — 
a sly Greek, whose acquaintance I had made two days 
before. The pipe-bearer, propitiated by a trifling bribe, 
spoke to his master, and he spoke to the vizir, who promised 
I should have the letter ; and it came accordingly in the 
evening, properly signed and sealed, and all in heathen 
Greek, of which I could make out a word here and 
there ; but what it was about was entirely beyond my 

Whilst waiting the result of these negotiations I had 
leisure to notice the warlike movements which were going 
on around me. I saw a train of two or three hundred 


men on horseback issuing out from the citadel, and riding 
slowly along the plain in the direction of Berat. They 
were sent to raise the siege ; and other troops were pre- 
paring to follow them. As I watched these horsemen 
winding across the plain in a long line, with the sun 
glancing upon their arms, they seemed like a great serpent, 
with its glittering scales, gliding along to seek for its prey ; 
and in some respects the simile would hold good, for this 
detachment would be the terror of the inhabitants of every 
district through which it passed. Rapine, violence, and 
oppression would mark its course ; friend and foe would 
alike be plundered ; and the villages which had not been 
burned by the insurgent klephti would be sacked and 
ruined by the soldiers of the government. 

As I descended from the citadel I passed numerous 
parties of armed men, all full of excitement about the 
plunder they would get, and the mighty deeds they would 
perform ; for the danger was a good way off, and they 
were all brim-full of valour. In the bazaar all was busi- 
ness and bustle : everybody was buying arms. Long 
guns and silver pistols, already loaded, I believe, with 
Jjiery-looking flints as big as sandwiches, wrapped up first 
in a bit of red cloth, and then in a sort of open work of 
lead or tin, were being handed about ; and the spirit 
of commerce was in full activity. Great was the haggling 
among the dealers. One man walked off with a mace ; 
another, expecting to perform as mighty deeds as Richard 
Coeur de Lion, bought an old battle-axe, and swung it 
about to show how he would cut heads off with it before 
long. Another champion had included among his warlika 


accoutrements a curious, ancient-looking silver clock, 
which dangled by his side from a multitude of chains. It 
was square in shape, and must have been provided with a 
strong constitution inside if it could go while it was banged 
about at every step the man took. This worthy, I imagine, 
intended to kill time, for his purchase did not seem calcu- 
lated to cope with any other enemy. He had, however, 
two or three pistols and daggers in addition to his clock. 
An oldish, hard-featured man was buying a quantity of 
that abominably sour, white cheese which is the pride of 
Albania, and a quantity of black olives, which he was 
cramming into a pair of old saddle-bags, whilst his horse 
beside him was quietly munching his corn in a sack tied 
over his nose. There was a look of calm efficiency about 
this man, which contrasted strongly with the swaggering 
air of the crowd around him. He was evidently an old 
hand ; and I observed that he had laid in a stock of ball- 
cartridges — an article in which but little money was spent 
by the buyers of yataghans in silver sheaths and silver 

" Hallo ! sir Frank," cried one or two of these gay 
warriors, " come out with us to Berat : come and see us 
fight, and you will see something worth travelling for." 

" Ay," said I, " it's all up with the enemy : that's quite 
certain. They will be in a pretty scrape, to be sure, when 
you arrive. I would not be one of them for a good deal V 

" Sono molto feroce questi palicari," said my guide. 

" Oh ! yes, they are terrible fellows !" I replied. 

" What does the Frank say ?" they asked. 

w He says you are terrible fellows." 


" Ah ! I think we are, indeed. But don't be afraid, 
Frank ; don't be afraid !" 

" No," said I, " I won't : and I wish you good luck on 
your way to Berat and back again." 

This night the people had been so much occupied in 
purchasing the implements of death that I heard no 
accounts of any new murders. In fact it had been a dull 
day in that respect ; but no doubt they would make up 
for it before long. 



Start fop Meteora — Rencontre with a Wounded Traveller — Bar- 
barity of the Robbers — Albanian Innkeeper — Effect of the 
Turkish Language upon the Greeks— Mezzovo — Interview with 
the chief Person in the Village— Mount Pindus — Capture by 
Robbers — Salutary effects of Swaggering — Arrival under Escort 
at the Robbers' Head-Quarters — Affairs take a favourable turn — 
An unexpected Friendship with the Robber Chief— The Khan 
of Malacash — Beauty of the Scenery — Activity of our Guards — 
Loss of Character — Arrival at Meteora. 

November 6th. — I had engaged a tall, thin, dismal- 
looking man, well provided with pistols, knives, and 
daggers, as an additional servant, for he was said to 
know all the passes of the mountains, which I thought 
might be a useful accomplishment in case I had to avoid 
the more public roads— or paths, rather — for roads there 
were none. I purchased a stock of provisions, and hired 
five horses — three for myself and my men, one for the 
muleteer, and the other for the baggage, which was 
well strapped on, that the beast might gallop with 
it, as it was not very heavy. They were pretty good 
horses — rough and hardy. Mine looked very hard at 
me out of the corner of his eye when I got upon 
his back in the cold grey dawn, as if to find out 
what sort of a person I was. By means of a stout 
kourbatch — a sort of whip of rhinoceros hide which they 
use in Egypt — I immediately gave him all the information 
he desired ; and off we galloped round the back part of 
the town, and, unquestioned by any one, we soon 


found ourselves trotting along the plain by the south 
end of the lake of Yanina. Here the waters from the 
lake disappeared in an extraordinary manner in a 
great cavern, or pit full of rocks and stones, through 
which the water runs away into some subterranean 
channel — a dark and mysterious river, which the dismal- 
looking man, my new attendant, said came out into the 
light again somewhere in the Gulph of Arta. Before 
long we got upon the remains of a fine paved road, like a 
Roman way, which had been made by Ali Pasha. It 
was, however, out of repair, having in places been 
swept away by the torrents, and was an impediment 
rather than an assistance to travellers. This road led 
up to the hills; and, having dismounted from my 
horse, I began scrambling and puffing up the steep 
side" of the mountain, stopping every now and then 
to regain my breath and to admire the beautiful 
view of the calm lake and picturesque town of 

As I was walking in advance of my company, I saw 
a man above me leading a loaded mule. He was coming 
down the mountain, carefully picking his way among the 
stones, and in a loud voice exhorting the mule to be 
steady and keep its feet, although the mule was much 
the more sure-footed of the two. As they passed me 
I was struck with the odd appearance of the mule's 
burden : it consisted of a bundle of large stones on 
one side, which served as a counterpoise to a packing- 
case on the other, covered with a cloth, out of which 
peeped the head of a man, with his long black hair 


hanging about a face as pale as marble. The box in 
which he travelled not being more than four feet and 
a half long, I supposed he must be a dwarf, and was 
laughing at his peculiar mode of conveyance. The 
muleteer, observing from my dress that I was a Frank, 
stopped his mule when he came up to mej and asked 
me if I was a physician, begging me to give my assistance 
to the man in the box, if I knew anything of sur- 
gery, for he had had both his legs cut off by some 
robbers on the way from Salonrca, and he was now 
taking him to Yanina, in hopes of finding some doctor 
there to heal his wounds. My laughter was now turned 
into pity for the poor man, for I knew there was no 
help for him at Yanina. I could do nothing for him ; 
and the only hope was, as his strength had borne him 
up so far on his journey, that when he got rest at 
Yanina the wounds might heal of themselves. After 
expressing my commiseration for him, and my hopes of 
his recovery, we parted company ; and as I stood looking 
at the mule, staggering and slipping among the loose 
stones and rocks in the steep desert, it quite made 
me wince to think of the pain the unfortunate traveller 
must be enduring, with the raw stumps of his two legs 
rubbing and bumping against the end of his short box. 
I was sorry I did not ask why the robbers had cut 
off his legs, because, if it was their usual system,' 
it was certainly more than I bargained for. I had 
pretty nearly made up my mind to be robbed, but had no 
intention whatever to lose my legs : so I sat down upon 
a rock, and began calculating probabilities, until my 


mrty came up, and I mounted my horse, who gave 
me another look with his cunning eye. We continued 
on Ali Pasha's broken road until we reached the sum- 
mit of the mountain, where we made a short halt, that 
our horses might regain their wind ; and then began 
our descent, stumbling, and sliding, and scrambling down, 
until we arrived at the bottom, where there was a miserable 
khan. In this royal hotel, which was a mere shed, there 
was nothing to be found except mine host, who had 
it all to himself. At last he made us some coffee; 
and while our horses were feeding on our own corn, 
we sat under the shade of a walnut-tree by the 
road-side. Our host, having nothing which could be 
eaten or drunk except the coffee, did not know how 
in the world he could manage to get up a satisfactory 
bill. I saw this very plainly in his puzzled and 
thoughtful looks ; but at last a bright thought struck 
him, and he charged a good round sum for the shade 
of a walnut-tree. Now although I admired his in- 
genuity, I demurred at the charge, particularly as the 
walnut-tree did not belong to him. It was a wild tree, 
which everybody threw stones at as he passed by, to brings 
down the nuts : — 

*' Nux ego juncta viae quae sum sine crimine vitae, 
Attamen a cunctis saxibus usque petor."— Ovid 

Little did the unoffending walnut-tree think that its shade 
would be brought forward as a cause of war ; for then 
arose a fierce contest between Greek oaths and Albanian 
maledictions, to which Arabic and English lent their aid* 
Though there were no stones thrown, ten times as many 


hard words were hurled backwards and forwards as there 
were walnuts on the tree, showing a facility of expression 
and a redundance of epithets which would have given a 
lesson to the most practised ladies of Billingsgate. 

When the horses were ready the khangee came up to 
me in a towering passion, swearing that I should pay for 
sitting under the tree. " Englishman," said he, " get up 
and pay me what I demand, or you shall not leave this 
place, by all that is holy." "Kiupek oglou," said I, 
without moving from the ground, " Oh, son of a dog ! go 
and get my horse, you chattering magpie !" These few 
words in the language of the conqueror had a marvellous 
effect on the khangee. " What does his worship say ?" 
he inquired of the dismal-faced man. " Why, he says 
you had better go and get his excellency's worship's most 
respectable horse, if you have any regard for your life : 
so go ! be off! vanish ! don't stay there staring at the 
illustrious traveller. 'Tis lucky for you he doesn't order 
us to cut you up into cabobs ; go and get the horse ; and 
perhaps you'll be paid for your coffee, bad as it was. His 
excellency is the pasha's, his highness's, most particular 
intimate friend ; and if his highness knew what you had 
been saying, why, where would you be, O man ?" The 
khangee, who had intended to have had it all his own way, 
was taken terribly aback at the sound of the Turkish 
tongue : he speedily put on my horse's bridle, gave his 
nosebag to the muleteer, tightened up his girths, helped 
the servants, and was suddenly converted into a humble 
submissive drudge. The way in which anything Turkish 
is respected among the conquered races in Syria or in 


Egypt can scarcely be imagined by those who have not 
witnessed it. 

Leaving the khangee to count his paras and piastres, 
with which, after all, he was evidently well satisfied, we 
rode on down the valley by the side of a brawling stream, 
which we crossed no less than thirty-nine times during our 
day's journey. Our road lay through a magnificent series 
of picturesque and savage gorges, between high rocks. 
Sometimes we rode along the bed of the stream, and some- 
times upon a ledge so far above it that it looked like a sil- 
ver ribbon in the sun. Every now and then we came to 
a cataract or rapid, where the stream boiled and foamed 
among the rocks, tossing up its spray, and drowning our 
voices in its noise. In the course of about eight hours of 
continual scrambling up and down all sorts of rocks, we 
found ourselves at another wretched shelty dignified with 
the name of khan. Here, after a tolerable supper, we ail 
rolled ourselves up in the different corners of a sort of 
loft, with our arms under our heads, and slept soundly 
until the morning. 

November lik. — This day we continued along the banks 
of a stream, in the direction of its source, until it dwindled 
to a mere rivulet, when we left it and took to the hills at 
the base of another mountain. We rode some way along 
a rocky path until, turning round a corner to the left, we 
found ourselves at the town or village of Mezzovo. As 
Mahmoud Pasha had supplied me with a firman and letters 
to the principal persons at the several towns on my route, 
I looked out for my Mezzr/o letter, with the intention of 
asking for an escort of a few soldiers to accompany me 


through the passes of Mount Pindus, which were reported 
to be full of robbers and cattiva gente of every sort and 
kind, the great extent of the underwood of box-trees form- 
ing an impenetrable cover for those minions of the moon. 

Most of the population of Mezzovo turned out to see the 
procession of the Milordos Inglesis as it entered the pre- 
cincts of their ancient city, and denied into the market- 
place, in the middle of which was a great tree, under 
whose shade sat and smoked a circle of grave and reve- 
rend seignors, the aristocracy of the place ; whereupon, 
holding the pasha's letter in my hand, I cantered up to 
them. On seeing me advance towards them, a broad- 
shouldered good-natured looking man, gorgeously dressed 
in red velvet, embroidered all over with gold, though 
something tarnished with the rain and weather, arose and 
stepped forward to meet me. " Here is a letter," said I, 
" from his highness Mahmoud Pasha, vizir of Yanina, to 
the chief personage of Mezzovo, whoever he may be, for 
there is no name mentioned ; so tell me who is the chief 
person in this city ; where is he to be found, for I desire 
to speak with him ?" " You want the chief person of 
Mezzovo ?" replied the broad-shouldered man ; " well, I 
think I am the chief person here, am I not ?" he asked of 
the assembled crowd which had gathered together by this 
time. " Certainly, malista, oh yes, you are the chief per- 
son of Mezzovo undoubtedly," they all cried out. " Very 
well," said he, " then give me the letter." On my giving 
it to him, he opened it in a very unceremonious manner ; 
and, before he had half read it, burst into a fit of laughing. 
" What are you laughing at ?" said I ; "is not that the 


vizir's letter ?" " Oh !" said he, " you want guards, do 
you, to protect you against the robbers, the klephti?" 
" Yes, I do ; but I do not see what there is to laugh at in 
that. I want some men to go with me to Meteora ; if you 
are the captain or commander here, give me an escort, as 
I wish to be off at once : it is early now, and I can cross 
the mountains before dark." 

After a pause, he said, " Well, I am the captain ; and 
you shall have men who will protect you wherever you 
go. You are an Englishman, are you not ?" " Yes," I 
said, " I am." "Well, I like the English ; and you parti- 
cularly." " Thank you," said I : and, after some more 
conversation, he tore off a slip from the vizir's letter (a very 
unceremonious proceeding in Albania), and, writing a few 
lines on it, he said, " Now give this paper to the first 
soldiers you meet at the foot of Mount Pindus, and all 
will be right." He then instructed the muleteer which- 
way to go. I took the paper, which was not folded up ; 
but the badly- written Romaic was unintelligible to me, so 
I put it into my pocket, and away we went, my new friend 
waving his hand to us as we passed out of the market- 
place ; and we were soon trotting along through the open 
country towards the hills which shoot out from the base of 
the great chain of Mount Pindus, a mountain famous for 
having had Mount Ossa put on the top of it by some of the 
giants when they were fighting against Jupiter. As that 
respected deity got the better of the giants, I presume he 
put Ossa back again ; for which I felt very much obliged 
to him, as Pindus seemed quite high enough and steep 
enough without any addition. 


We rode along, getting nearer and nearer to the moun- 
tains ; and at length we began to climb a steep rocky path 
on the side of a lofty hill covered with box-trees. This 
path continued for some distance until we came to a place 
where there was a ledge so narrow that two horses could 
not go abreast. Here, as I was riding quietly along, I 
heard an exclamation in front of " Robbers ! robbers V 
and sure enough, out of ro of the thickets of box- trees, 
there advanced three or four bright gun-barrels, which 
were speedily followed by some gentlemen in dirty white 
jackets and fustanellas ; who, in a short and abrupt style 
of eloquence, commanded us to stand. This of course 
we were obliged to do ; and as I was getting out my pistol, 
one of the individuals in white presented his gun at me, 
and upon my looking round to see whether my tall Alba- 
nian servant was preparing to support me, I saw him 
.quietly half-cock his gun and sling it back over his 
shoulder, at the same time shaking his head as much as to 
say, " It is no use resisting ; we are caught ; there are 
too many of them." So I bolted the locks of the four 
barrels of my pistol carefully, hoping that the bolts would 
form an impediment to my being shot with my own 
weapon after I had been robbed of it. The place was so 
narrow that there were no hopes of running away, and 
there we sat on horseback, looking silly enough, I dare 
say. There was a good deal of talking and chattering 
among the robbers, and they asked the Albanian various 
questions to which I paid no attention, all my faculties 
being engrossed in watching the proceedings of the party 
in front, who were examining the effects in the pannier* 


of the baggage mule. First they pulled out my bag of 
clothes, and threw it upon the ground ; then out came the 
sugar and the coffee, and whatever else there was. Some 
of the men had hold of the poor muleteer, and a loud 
argument was going on between him and his captors. I 
did not like all this, but my rage was excited to a violent 
pitch when I saw one man appropriating to his own use 
the half of a certain fat tender cold fowl, whereof I had 
eaten the other half with much appetite and satisfaction. 
" Let that fowl alone, you scoundrel !" said I in good 
English ; " put it down, will you 1 if you don't, I'll 
!" The man, surprised at this address in an un- 
known tongue, put down the fowl, and looked up with 
wonder at the explosion of ire which his actions had 
called forth, " That is right," said I, " my good fellow, it 
is too good for such a dirty brute as you." " Let us see," 
said I to the Albanian, " if there is nothing to be done ^ 
say I am the King of England's uncle, or grandson, or 
particular friend, and that if we are hurt or robbed he 
will send all manner of ships and armies, and hang 
everybody, and cut off the heads of all the rest. Talk 
big, O man! and don't spare great words; they cost 
nothing, and let us see what that will do." 

Upon this the Albanian took up his parable and a long 
parleying ensued, for the robbers were taken aback with 
vhe good English in which I had addressed them, and stood 
still with open mouths to hear what it all meant. In the 
middle of this row I thought of the paper which had 
been given me at Mezzovo. " Here," said I, " here is a 
letter ; read it, see what *t says." They took the papei 


and turned it round and round, for they could not read it: 
first one looked at it and then another ; then they looked 
at the back, but they could make nothing of it. Never- 
theless, it produced a great effect upon them, for here, as 
in all other countries of the East, any writing is looked 
upon by the uneducated people as a mystery, and is held 
in high respect ; and at last they said they would take us 
to a place where we should find a person capable of read- 
ing it. The thing which most provoked me was that the 
fellows seemed not to have the slightest fear of us ; they 
did not even take the trouble to demand our arms : my 
much cherished " patent four-barrelled travelling pistol' ' 
they evidently considered too small to be dangerous ; and 
I felt it as a kind of personal insult that they deputed only 
two of their number to convoy us to the residence of the 
learned person who was to read the letter. They managed 
matters, however, in a scientific way : the bridles of our 
horses were turned over their heads and tied each to the 
horse that went before ; one of our captors walked in 
front and the other behind ; but just when I thought an 
opportunity had arrived to shake off this yoke, I perceived 
that the whole pass was guarded, and wherever the road 
was a little wider or turned a corner round a rock or a 
clump of trees, there were other long guns peeping out 
from among the bushes, with the bearers of which our 
two conquerors exchanged pass- words. Thus we marched 
along, the robber who went first apparently caring nothing 
about us, but the one in the rear having his gun cocked 
and ready to shoot any one of us who should turn res- 
tive. The road, which ascended rapidly, was rather too 


dangerous to be agreeable, being a narrow path cut on the 
side of a very steep mountain ; at one time the track lay 
across a steep slope of blue marl, which afforded the most 
insecure footing for our horses : all mountain travellers 
are aware how much more dangerous this kind of road is 
than a firm ledge of rock, however narrow. 

We had now got very high, and the ground was sprinkled 
with patches of ice and snow, which rendered the footing 
insecure ; and frequently large masses of the road, dis- 
turbed by our passing over it, gave way beneath our feet, 
and set off bounding and crashing among the box trees 
until it was broken into powder on the rocks below. 

In process of time we got into a cloud which hid every- 
thing from us, and going still higher we got above the 
cloud into a region of broken crags and rocks and pine- 
trees, among which there was a large wooden house or 
shed. It seemed all roof, and was made of long spars of 
trees sloping towards each other, and was very high, long, 
and narrow. As we approached it several men made their 
appearance armed at all points, and took our horses from 
us. At the end of the shed there was a door through 
which we were conducted into the interior by our two 
guards, and placed all of a row, with our backs against 
the wall, on the right side of the entrance. Towards the 
other end of this sylvan guard-room there was a large fire 
on the ground, and a number of men sitting round it 
drinking aqua vitse out of coffee cups, and talking loud 
and laughing. In the farthest corner I saw a pile of long 
bright-barrelled guns leaning against the wall, while on 
the other side of the fire there were some boards on th* 


ground with a mat or carpet over them, whereon a worthy 
better dressed than the rest was lounging, apart from every 
one else and half asleep. To him the paper was given, 
and he leant forward to read it by the light of the blazing 
fire, for though it was bright sunshine out of doors, the 
room was quite dark. The captain was evidently a poor 
scholar, and he spelt and puzzled over every word. At 
last a thought struck him : shading his eyes with his hand 
from the glare of the fire he leant forward and peered into 
the darkness, where we were awaiting his commands. 
Not distinguishing us, however, he jumped up upon his 
feet and shouted out " Hallo ! where are the gentlemen 
who brought this letter ? What done with them ?" 
At the sound of his voice the rest of the party jumped up 
also, being then first aware that something out of the com- 
mon had taken place. Some of the palicari ran towards 
us and were going to seize us, when the captain came 
forward and in a civil tone said, " Oh, there you are ! 
Welcome, gentlemen, we are very glad to receive you. 
Make yourselves at home; come near the fire and sit 
down." I took him at his word and sat down on the 
boards by the side of the fire, rubbing my hands and 
making myself as comfortable as possible under the cir- 
cumstances. My two servants and the muleteer seeing 
what turn affairs l}ad taken, became of a sudden as lo- 
quacious as they had been silent before, and in a short 
time we were all the greatest friends in the world. 

" So," said the captain, or whatever he was, " you are 
acquainted with our friend at Mezzovo. How did you 
leave him ? I hope he was well ?" 


" Oh, yes," I said ; " we left him in excellent health. 
What a remarkably pleasing person he is ! and how well 
he looks in his red velvet dress !" 

" Have you known him long ?" he asked. 

" Why, not very long," replied my Albanian ; " but my 
master has tbe greatest respect for him and so has he for 
my master." 

"He says you are to take some of our men wherever 
you like," said our host. 

" Yes, I know," said the Albanian ; " we settled that at 
Mezzovo, with my master's friend, his Excellency Mr. 

" Weil, how many will you take V 9 

" Oh ! five or six will do ; that will be as many as we 
want. We are going to Meteora and then we shall return 
over the mountains back to Mezzovo, where I hope we 
shall have the pleasure of meeting your general again." 

Whilst we were talking and drinking coffee by the lire, 
a prodigious bustling and chattering was going on among 
the rest of the party, and before long five slim, active, 
dirty-looking young rogues, in white dresses, with long 
black hair hanging down their backs, and each with a long 
thin gun, announced that they were ready to accompany 
us whenever we were ready to start. As we had nothing to 
keep us in the dark, smoky hovel, we were soon ready to go ; 
and glad indeed was I to be out again in the open air among 
the high trees, without the immediate prospect of being 
hanged upon one of them. My party jumped with great 
alacrity and glee upon their miserable mules and horses ; 
all our belongings, including the half of the cold fowl, 


were in statu quo ; and off we set— =our new friends ac- 
companied us on foot. And so delighted was our Caliban 
of a muleteer at what we all considered a fortunate escape, 
that he lifted up his voice and gave vent to his feelings in 
a song. The grand gentleman in red velvet to whom I 
had presented the Pasha's letter at Mezzovo, was, it seems, 
himself the captain of the thieves — the very man against 
whom the Pasha wished to afford us his protection ; and 
he, feeling amused probably at the manner in which we 
had fallen unawares into bis clutches, and being a good- 
natured fellow (and he certainly looked such), gave us a 
note to the officer next in command, ordering him to protect 
us as his friends, and to provide us with an escort. When 
I say that he of the red velvet was captain of the thieves, 
it is to be understood, that although his followers did not 
excel in honesty, as they proceeded to plunder us the mo- 
ment they had entrapped us in the valley of the box-trees, 
yet he should more properly be called a guerilla chief in 
rebellion for the time being against the authorities of the 
Turkish government, and I being a young Englishman, he 
good-naturedly gave me his assistance, without which, as 
I afterwards found, it would have been impossible for me 
to have travelled with safety through any one of the 
mountain passes of the Pin d us. I was told that this chief, 
whose name I unfortunately omitted to note down, com- 
manded a large body of men before the city of Herat, and 
certainly all the ragamuffins whom I met on my way to and 
from the monasteries of Meteora acknowledged his author- 
ity. I heard that soon afterwards he returned to his 
allegiance under Mahmoud Pasha, for it appears that the 


outbreak, during which I had inadvertently started for a 
tour in Albania, did not last long. 

Late in the evening we arrived at a small khan some- 
thing like an out-building to a farmhouse in England; 
this was the khan of Malacash ; it was prettily situated on 
the banks of the river Peneus, and contained, besides the 
stable, two rooms, one of which opened upon a kind of 
verandah or covered terrace. My two servants and I 
slept on the floor in this room, and the five robbers or 
guards (as in common civility I ought to term them) in the 
ante-chamber. I gave them as good a supper as I could, 
and we became excellent friends. It was almost dark 
when we arrived at this place, but the next morning when 
the glorious sun arose I was charmed with the beautiful 
scenery around us. On both sides, banks of stately trees 
rose above the margin of a rippling stream, and the valley 
grew wider and wider as we rode on, the stream increasing 
by the addition of many little rills, and the trees retiring 
from it, affording us views of grassy plains and romantic 
dells, first on one side and then on the other. The scenery 
was most lovely, and in the distance was the towering 
summit of the great Mount Olympus, famous nowadays for 
the Greek monasteries which are built upon its sides, and 
near whose base runs the vaUey of Tempe, of which we 
are expressly told in the Latin Grammar that it is a plea- 
sant vale in Thessaly ; and if it is more beautiful than the 
valley of the Peneus, it must be a very pleasant vale 

I was struck with the original manner in which our moun- 
tain friends progressed through the country : sometimes 


they kept with us, but more usually some of them went on 
one side of the road and some on the other, like men beat- 
ing for game, only that they made no noise ; and on the 
rare occasions when we met any traveller trudging along 
the road or ambling on a long-eared mule, they were 
always among the bushes or on the tops of the rocks, and 
never showed themselves upon the road. But despite all 
these vagaries they were always close to us. They were 
wonderfully active, for although I trotted or galloped 
whenever the nature of the road rendered it practicable, 
they always kept up with me, and apparently without 
exertion or fatigue ; and although they were often out of 
my sight, I believe I was never out of theirs. Altogether 
I was glad that we were such friends, for, from what 
I saw of them, they and their associates would have proved 
very awkward enemies. They were curious wild animals, 
as slim and as active as cats : their waists were not much 
more than a foot and a half in circumference, and they 
appeared to be able to jump over anything ; and the thin 
mocassins of raw hide which they wore enabled them to 
run or walk without making the slightest noise. In fact, 
they were agreeable, honest rogues enough, and we got on 
amazingly well together. I had a way of singing as I 
rode along for my own particular edification, and from 
mere joyousness of heart, for the beautiful scenery, and 
the fine fresh air, and the bright stream delighted me, so I 
sung away at a great rate ; and my horse sometimes put 
back one of his ears to listen, which I took as a persona 1 
compliment : but my robbers did not like this singing. 


« Why," they said to the Albanian, " does the Frank 

" It is a way he has," was the reply. 

" Well," they said, " this is a wild country ; there 
is no use in courting attention — he had better not sing." 

Nevertheless I would not leave off for all that. Canto- 
bit vacuus coram latrone viator; so I went on singing 
rather louder than before, particularly as I was convinced 
that my horse had an ear for music ; and in this way, 
after travelling for seven hours, we came within sight of 
the extraordinary rocks of Meteora. 

Just at this time we observed among the trees before us 
a long string of travellers who appeared to be convoying a 
train of baggage horses. On seeing us they stopped, and 
closed their files ; and as my thieves had bolted, as usual, 
into the bushes some time before, my party consisted only 
of four persons and five horses. As we approached the 
other party, a tall, well-armed man, with a rifle across his 
arm, rode forwards and hailed us, asking who we were. 
We said we were travellers. 

" And who were those who left you just now ?" 
said he. 

" They are some of our party who have turned 
off by a short cut to go to Meteora," replied my 

" What ! a short cut on both sides of the road ! how is 
that ? I suspect you are not simple travellers." 

" Well," he replied, " we do not wish to molest you. 
Go on your way in peace, and let us pass quietly, for you 
are by far the larger party." 


" Yes," said the man, " but how many have you in the 
bushes ? What are they about there V 9 

" I don't know what they are about," said he, " but 
they will not molest you [one of them was peeping over a 
bush at the back of the party all the while, but they did 
not see him] ; and we, I assure you, are peaceable 
travellers like yourselves." 

Our new acquaintance did not seem at all satisfied, 
and he and all his party drew up along the path as we 
passed them, with evident misgivings as to our purpose ; 
and soon afterwards, looking back, we saw them keeping 
close together and trotting along as fast as their 
loaded horses would go, some of them looking round 
at us every now and then till we lost sight of them among 
the trees. 

The proverb says — you shall know a man by his 
friends, and my character had evidently suffered from 
the appearance of the company I kept, for the mer- 
chants held me as little better than a rogue ; there 
was, however, no time for explanations, and it was with 
feelings of indignant virtue that I left the forest, and 
after crossing the river Peneus at a ford, my merry 
men and I continued our journey along the grassy plain 
of Meteora. 



Meteora— The extraordinary Character of its Scenery— Its Caves 
formerly the Resort of Ascetics— Barbarous Persecution of the 
Hermits — Their extraordinary Religious Observances — Singular 
Position of the Monasteries — The Monastery of Barlaam — The 
difficulty of reaching it — Ascent by a Windlass and Net, or by 
Ladders — Narrow Escape — Hospitable Reception by the Monks 
— The Agoumenos, or Abbot — His strict Fast — Description of 
the Monastery — The Church— Symbolism in the Greek Church 
— Respect for Antiquity — The Library — Determination of the 
Abbot not to sell any of the MSS.— The Refectory— Its Deco- 
rations — Aerial Descent — The Monastery of Hagios Stephanos 
-Its Carved Iconostasis — Beautiful View from the Monastery 
-Monastery of Agia Triada — Summary Justice at Triada — 
Monastery of Agia Roserea — Its Lady Occupants — Admission 

The scenery of Meteora is of a very singular kind. The 
end of a range of rocky hills seems to have been broken 
off by some earthquake or washed away by the Deluge, 
leaving only a series of twenty or thirty tall, thin, smooth, 
needle-like rocks, many hundred feet in height ; some 
like gigantic tusks, some shaped like sugar-loaves, and 
some like vast stalagmites. These rocks surround a 
beautiful grassy plain, on three sides of which there grow 
groups of detached trees, like those in an English park. 
Some of the rocks shoot up quite clean and perpendi- 
cularly from the smooth green grass; some are in 
clusters ; some stand alone like obelisks ; nothing can be 
more strange and wonderful than this romantic region, 
which is unlike anything I have ever seen either 
before or since. In Switzerland, Saxony, the Tyrol, 


or any other mountainous region where I have been, 
there is nothing at all to be compared to these extra- 
ordinary peaks. 

At the foot of many of the rocks which surround this 
beautiful grassy amphitheatre, there are numerous 
caves and holes, some of which appear to be natural, 
but most of them are artificial ; for in the dark and 
wild ages of monastic fanaticism whole flocks of hermits 
roosted in these pigeon-holes. Some of these caves 
are so high up the rocks that one wonders how the 
poor old gentlemen could ever get up to them ; whilst 
others are below the surface ; and the anchorites who 
burrowed in them, like rabbits, frequently afforded 
excellent sport to parties of roving Saracens ; indeed, 
hermit-hunting seems to have been a fashionable 
amusement previous to the twelfth century. In early 
Greek frescos, and in small, stiff pictures with gold 
backgrounds, we see many frightful representations of 
men on horseback in Roman armour, with long 
spears, who are torturing and slaying Christian de- 
votees. In these pictures the monks and hermits are 
represented in gowns made of a kind of coarse matting, 
and they have long beards, and some of them are covered 
with hair; these I take it were the ones most to be 
admired, as in the Greek church sanctity is always in the 
inverse ratio of beauty. All Greek saints are painfully 
ugty> but the hermits are much uglier, dirtier, and older, 
than the rest; they must have been very fusty people 
besides, eating roots, and living in holes like rats and 
mice. It is difficult to understand by what process of- 


reasoning they could have persuaded themselves that, 
by living in this useless, inactive way, they were lead- 
ing holy lives. They wore out the rocks with their 
knees in prayer ; the cliffs resounded with their groans ; 
sometimes they banged their breasts with a big stone, 
for a change ; and some wore chains and iron girdles 
round their emaekted forms; but they did nothing 
whatever to benefit their kind. Still there is some- 
thing grand in the strength and constancy of their 
faith. They left their homes and riches and the pleasures 
of this world, to retire to these dens and caves of 
the earth, to be subjected to cold and hunger, pain 
and death, that they might do honour to their God, 
after their own fashion, and trusting that, by mortifying 
the body in this world, they should gain happiness for 
the soul in the world to come ; and therefore peace be 
with their memory ! 

On the top of these rocks in different directions there 
remain seven monasteries out of twenty-four which once 
crowned their airy heights. How anything except a bird 
was to arrive at one which we saw in the distance on a 
pinnacle of rock was more than we could divine ; but the 
mystery was soon solved. Winding our way upwards, 
among a labyrinth of smaller rocks and cliffs, by a 
romantic path which afforded us from time to time beau- 
tiful views of the green vale below us, we at length found 
ourselves on an elevated platform of rock, which I may 
compare to the flat roof of a church ; while the monas- 
tery of Barlaam stood perpendicularly above us, on the 
top of a much higher rock, like the tower of this church 


Here we fired off a gun, which was intended to answer 
the same purpose as knocking at the door in more civilized 
places ; and we all strained our necks in looking up at 
the monastery to see whether any answer would he made 
to our call. Presently we were hailed by some one in the 
sky, whose voice came down to us like the cry of a bird ; 
and we saw the face and grey beard of an old monk 
some hundred feet above us peering out of a kind of 
window or door. He asked us who we were, and what 
we wanted, and so forth ; to which we replied, that we 
were travellers, harmless people, who wished to be ad- 
mitted into the monastery to stay the night ; that we had 
come all the way from Corfu to see the wonders of Me- 
teora, and, as it was now getting late, we appealed to his 
feelings of hospitality and Christian benevolence. 

" Who are those with you ?" said he. 

" Oh ! most respectable people," we answered ; " gen- 
tlemen of our acquaintance, who have come with us across 
the mountains from Mezzovo." 

The appearance of our escort did not please the monk, 
and we feared that he would not admit us into the monas- 
tery ; but at length he let down a thin cord, to which 1 
attached a letter of introduction which I had brought from 
Corfu ; and after some delay a much larger rope was 
seen descending with a hook at the end to which a strong 
net was attached. On its reaching the rock on which we 
stood the net was spread open ; my two servants sat down 
upon it; and the four corners being attached to the hook, 
a signal was made, and they began slowly ascending into 
the air, twisting round and round like a leg of mutton 


hanging to a bottle-jack. The rope was old and mended, 
and the height from the ground to the door above was, we 
•afterwards learned, 37 fathoms, or 222 feet. When they 
reached the top I saw two stout monks reach their arms 
out of the door and pull in the two servants by main 
force, as there was no contrivance like a turning-crane for 
bringing them nearer to the landing-place. The whole 
process appeared so dangerous, that I determined to go up 
by climbing a series of ladders which were suspended by 
large wooden pegs on the face of the precipice, and which 
reached the top of the rock in another direction, round a 
corner to the right. The lowest ladder was approached 
by a pathway leading to a rickety wooden platform which 
overhung a deep gorge. From this point the ladders hung 
perpendicularly upon the bare rock, and I climbed up 
three or four of them very soon ; but coming to one, the 
lower end of which had swung away from the top of the 
one below, I had some difficulty in stretching across from 
the one to the other ; and here unluckily I looked down, 
and found that I had turned a sort of angle in the preci- 
pice, and that I was not over the rocky platform where 1 
had left the horses, but that the precipice went sheer down 
to so tremendous a depth, that my head turned when I sur- 
veyed the distant valley over which I was hanging in the 
air like a fly on a wall. The monks in the monastery 
saw me hesitate, and called ou to me to take courage and 
hold on ; and, making an effort, I overcame my dizziness, 
and clambered up to a small iron door, through which I 
crept into a court of the monastery, where I was wel- 
comed by the monks and the two servants who had been 


hauled up by the rope. The rest of my party were not 
admitted ; but they bivouacked at the foot of the rocks in 
a sheltered place, and were perfectly contented with the 
coffee and provisions which we lowered down to them. 

My servants, in high glee at having been hoisted up 
safe and sound, were busy in arranging my baggage in 
the room which had been allotted to us, and in making it 
comfortable : one went to get ready some warm water for 
a bath, or at any rate for a good splash in the largest tub 
that could be found ; the other made me a snug corner on 
the divan, and covered it with a piece of silk, and spread 
my carpet before it ; he put my books in a little heap, got 
ready the things for tea, and hung my arms and cloak, 
and everything he could lay his hands on, upon the pegs 
projecting from the wall under the shelf which was fixed 
all round the room. My European clothes were soon 
pitched into the most ignominious corner of the divan, and 
I speedily arrayed myself in the long, loose robes of 
Egypt, so much more comfortable and easy than the tight 
cases in which we cramp up our limbs. In short, I forth- 
with made myself at home, and took a stroll among the 
courts and gardens of the monastery while dinner or sup- 
per, whichever it might be called, was getting ready. I 
soon stumbled upon the Agoumenos (the lord abbot) of 
this atrial monastery, and we prowled about together, 
peeping into rooms, visiting the church, and poking about 
until it began to get dark ; and then I asked him to dinner 
in his own room ; but he could eat no meat, so I ate the 
more myself, and he made up for it by other savoury 
messes, cooked partly by my servants and partly by the 


monks. He was an oldish man. He did not dislike 
sherry, though he preferred rosoglio, of which I always 
carried a few bottles with me in my monastic excursions. 

The abbot and I, and another holy father, fraternised, 
and slapped each other on the back, and had another glass 
or two, or rather cup, for coffee-cups of thin, old porcelain, 
called fingians, served us for wine-glasses. Then we had 
some tea, and they filled up their cups with sugar, and 
ate seamen's biscuits, and little cakes from Yanina, and 
rahatlokoom, and jelly of dried-grape juice, till it was 
time to go to bed ; when the two venerable monks gave 
me their blessing and stumbled out of the room ; and in a 
marvellously short space of time I was sound asleep. 

November 9th. — The monastery of Barlaam stands on 
the summit of an isolated rock, on a fiat or nearly flat 
space of perhaps an acre and a half, of which about one- 
half is occupied by the church and a smaller chapel, the 
refectory, the kitchen, the tower of the windlass, where 
you are pulled up, and a number of separate buildings 
containing offices and the habitations of the monks, of 
whom there were at this time only fourteen. These va- 
rious structures surround one tolerably large, irregularly- 
shaped court, the chief part of which is paved ; and there 
are several other small open spaces. All Greek monas- 
teries »are built in this irregular way, and the confused 
mass of disjointed edifices is usually encircled by a high 
bare wall ; but in this monastery there is no such enclosing 
wall, as its position effectually prevents the approach of 
an enemy. On a portion of the flat space which is not 
occupied by buildings they have a small garden, but it is 

£50 the church. Chap. XIX. 

not cultivated, and there is nothing like a parapet-wall in 
any direction to prevent your falling over. The place 
wears an aspect of poverty and neglect ; its best days have 
long gone by ; for here, as everywhere else, the spirit of 
asceticism is on the wane. 

The church has a porch before the door, vafd>jg, sup- 
ported by marble columns, the interior wall of which on 
each side of the door is painted with representations of the 
Last Judgment, and the tortures of the condemned, with a 
liberal allowance of flames and devils. These pictures 
of the torments of the wicked are always placed outside 
the body of the church, as typical of the unhappy state 
of those who are out of its pale : they are never seen 
within. The interior of this curious old church, which is 
dedicated to All Saints, has depicted upon its walls on all 
sides portraits of a great many holy personages, in the stiffj 
conventional, early style. It has four 
columns within which support the 
dome ; and the altar or holy table, ayia 
rgairs%a, is separated from the nave by 
a wooden screen, called the icono- 
stasis, on which are paintings of the Blessed Virgin, the 
Redeemer, and many saints. These pictures are kissed 
by all who enter the church. The iconostasis has three 
doors in it ; one in the centre, before the holy table, and 
one on each side. The centre one is only a half-door, 
like an old English buttery hatch, the upper part being 
screened with a curtain of rich stuff, which, except on 
certain occasions, is drawn aside, so as to afford a view 
of the book of the Gospels, in a rich binding, lying upon 


the holy table beyond. A Greek church has no sacristy ; 
the vestures are usually kept in presses in this space be- 
hind the iconostasis, where none but the priests and the 
deacon, or servant who trims the lamps, are allowed to 
enter, and they pass in and out by the side doors. The 
centre door is only used in the celebration of the holy 
mass. This part of the church is the sanctuary, and is 
called in Romaic, ayio, B^jfjuo, or 0>jfAo. It is typical of the 
holy of holies of the Temple, and the veil is represented 
by the curtain which divides it from the rest of the church. 
Everything is symbolical in the Eastern Church ; and 
these symbols have been in use from the very earliest ages 
of Christianity. The four columns which support the 
dome represent the four Evangelists ; and the dome itself 
is the symbol of heaven, to which access has been given 
to mankind by the glad tidings of the Gospels which they 
wrote. Part of the mosaic with which the whole interior 
of the dome was formerly covered in the cathedral of St. 
Sofia at Constantinople, is to be seen in the four angles 
below the dome, where the winged figures of the four 
evangelists still remain. Luckily for the Greek Church 
their sacred buildings are not under the authority of lay 
churchwardens — grocers in towns, and farmers in villages 
— who feel it their duty to whitewash over everything 
which is old and venerable, and curious, and to oppose the 
clergyman in order to show their independence. 

The Greek church, debased at it is by ignorance and 
superstition, has still the merit of carefully preserving and 
restoring all the memorials of its earlier and purer ages. 
If the fresco painting of a saint is rubbed out or damaged 


in the lapse of time, it is scrupulously repainted, exactly 
as it was before, even to the colour of the robe, the aspect 
of the countenance, and the minutest accessories of the 
composition. It is this systematic respect for everything 
which is old and venerable which renders the interior of 
the ancient Eastern churches so peculiarly interesting. 
They are the unchanged monuments of primaeval days. 
The Christians who suffered under the persecution of Dio- 
clesian may have knelt before the very altar which we now 
see, and which was then exactly the same as we now behold 
it, without any additions or subtractions either in its form 
or use. 

To us Protestants one of the most interesting circum- 
stances connected with these Eastern Churches is, that the 
altar is not called the altar, but the holy table, as with us, 
and that the Communion is given before it in both kinds. 
Besides the principal church there is a smaller one, not far 
from it, which is painted in the same manner as the other. 
1 unfortunately neglected to ascertain the dates of the 
foundation of these two edifices. 

The library contains about a thousand volumes, the far 
greater part of which are printed books, mostly Venetian 
editions of ecclesiastical works, but there are some fine 
copies of Aldine Greek classics. J, did not count the num- 
ber of the manuscripts ; they are all books of divinity and 
the works of the fathers ; there may be between one and 
two hundred of them. I found one folio Bulgarian manu- 
script which I could not read, and therefore was, of course, 
particularly* anxious to purchase. As I saw it was not a 
copy of the Gospels, I thought it might possibly be lustori- 


cal, but the monks would not sell it. The only other 
manuscript of value was a copy of the Gospels, in quarto, 
containing several miniatures and illuminations of the 
eleventh century ; but with this also they refused to part, 
so it remains for some more fortunate collector. It was of 
no use to the monks themselves, who cannot read either 
Hellenic or ancient Greek ; but they consider the books in 
their library as sacred relics, and preserve them with a 
certain feeling of awe for their antiquity and incompre- 
hensibility. Our only chance is when some worldly- 
minded Agoumenos happens to be at the head of the 
community, who may be inclined to exchange some of the 
unreadable old books for such a sum of gold or silver as 
will suffice for the repairs of one of their buildings, the 
replenishing of the cellar, or some other equally important 
purpose. At the time of my visit the march of intellect 
had not penetrated into the heights of the monastery of St. 
Barlaam, and the good old-fashioned Agoumenos was not 
to be overcome by any special pleading ; so I told him at 
last that I respected his prejudices, and hoped he would 
follow the dictates of his conscience equally well in more 
important matters. The worthy old gentleman therefore 
pitched the two much-coveted books back into the dusty 
corner whence he had taken them, and where to a certain- 
ty they will repose undisturbed until some other bookworm 
traveller visits the monastery ; and the sooner he comes 
the better, as mice and mildew are actively at work. 

In a room near the library some ancient relics are pre- 
served in silver shrines or boxes, of Byzantine workman- 
ship : they are, however, not of very great antiquity or 


interest ; the shrines are only of sufficient size to contain 
two skulls and a few bones ; the style and execution of the 
ornaments are also much inferior to many works of 
the same kind which are met with in ecclesiastical 

The refectory is a separate building, with an apsis at 
the upper end, in which stands a marble table where the 
sacred bread used by the Greek church is usually placed, 
and where, I believe, the agoumenos or the bishop dines on 
great occasions. The walls of this room are also painted ; 
not, however, with the representations of celebrated eaters, 
but with the likenesses of such thin, famished-looking 
saints that they seem most inappropriate as ornaments to a 
dining room. The kitchen, which stands near the refec- 
tory, is a circular building of great antiquity, but the 
interior being pitch dark when I looked in, and there 
coming from the door a dusty cold smell, which did not 
savour of any dainty fare, I did not examine it. 

The monks and the abbot had now assembled in the 
room where the capstan stood. Ten or twelve of them 
arranged themselves in order at the bars, the net was 
spread upon the floor, and, having sat down upon it cross- 
legged, the four corners were gathered up over my head, 
and attached to the hook at the end of the rope. All being 
ready, the monks at the capstan took a few steps round, 
the effect of which was to lift me off the floor and to launch 
me out of the door right into the sky, with an impetus 
which kept me swinging backwards and forwards at a 
fearful rate; when the oscillation had in some measure 
ceased, the abbot and another monk, leaning out of the 


door, steadied me with their hands, and I was let down 
slowly and gently to the ground. 

When I was disencumbered of the net by my friends the 
robbers below, I sat down on a stone, and waited while the 
rope brought down, first my servants, and then the bag- 
gage. All this being accomplished without accident, 
I sent the horses, baggage, and one servant to the great 
monastery of Meteora, where I proposed to sleep ; and, 
with the other servant and the palicari, started on foot for 
a tour among the other monasteries. 

A delightful walk of an hour and a half brought us to 
the entrance of the monastery of Hagios Stephanos, to 
which we gained access by a wooden drawbridge. The 
rock on which this monastery stands is isolated on three 
sides, and on the fourth is separated from the mountain by 
a deep chasm which, at the point where the drawbridge is 
placed, is not more than twelve feet wide. The interior of 
this building resembles St. Barlaam, inasmuch as it con- 
sists of a confused mass of buildings, surrounding an 
irregularly-formed court, of which the principal feature is 
the church. The paintings in it are not so numerous as 
at St. Barlaam, but the iconostasis, or screen before the 
altar, is most beautifully carved, something in the style of 
Grinlin Gibbons : the pictures upon it being surrounded 
with frames of light open work, consisting of foliage, 
birds, and flowers in alto relievo, cut out of a light- 
coloured wood in the most delicate manner. I was told 
that the whole of this beautiful work had been executed in 
Russia, and put up here during the reign of Ali Pasha, who 
had the good policy to protect the Greeks, and by that 


means to ensure the co-operation of one half of the popu 
lation of the country. 

In this monastery there were thirteen or fourteen monks 
and several women. On my inquiring for the library, one 
of the monks, after some demurring, opened a cupboard 
door ; he then unfastened a second door at the back of it 
which led into a secret chamber, where the books of the 
monastery were kept. They were in number about one 
hundred and fifty ; but I was disappointed at finding that 
although thus carefully concealed there was not a single 
volume amongst them remarkable for its antiquity or for 
any other cause : in fact, they were not worth the trouble 
of turning over. The view from this monastery is very 
fine : at the foot of the rock is the village of Kalabaki, to 
the east the citadel of Tricala stands above a wide level 
plain watered by the river which we had followed from its 
sources in Mount Pindus ; beyond this a sea of distant 
blue hills extends to the foot of Mount Olympus, whose 
summit, clothed in perpetual snow, towers above all the 
other mountains. The whole of this region is inhabited 
by a race of a different origin from ttie real Albanians : 
they speak the Wallachian language, and are said to be 
extremely barbarous and ignorant. Observing that the 
village of Kalabaki presented a singularly black appear- 
ance, I inquired the cause : it had, they said, been recently 
burned and sacked by the klephti or robbers (some of my 
friends, perhaps), and the remnant of the inhabitants had 
taken refuge in the two monasteries of Hagios Nicholas 
and Agia Mone, which had been deserted by the monks 
some time before; The poor people in these two impreg- 


nable fastnesses were, they told me, so suspicious of stran- 
gers and in such a state of alarm, that there was no use 
in my visiting them, as to a certainty they would not admit 
me ; and as it appeared that everything portable had been 
removed when the caloyeri (the monks) had departed from 
their impoverished homes, I gave up the idea. / 

I then proceeded along a romantic path to the monastery 
of Agia Triada, and on the way my servants entertained 
me by an account of what the monks had told them of 
their admiration of the Pasha of Tricala, whom they con- 
sidered as a perfect model of a governor; and that it 
would be a blessing for the country if all other pashas 
were like him, as then all the roving bands of robbers, who 
spread terror and desolation through the land, would be 
cleared away. There is, it seems, a high tower over the 
gate of the town of Tricala, and when the Pasha oaught 
any people whom he thought worthy of the distinction, he 
had them taken up to the top of this tower and thrown from it 
against the city walls, which his provident care had furnished 
with numerous large iron hooks, projecting about the length 
of a man's arm, which caught the bodies of the culprits 
as they fell, and on which they hung on either side of the 
town gate, affording a pleasing and instructive spectacle to 
the people who came in to market of a morning. 

Agia Triada contains about ten or twelve monks, who 
pulled me up to the entrance of their monastery with a 
rope thirty-two fathoms long. This monastery, like the 
others, resembles a small village, of which the houses 
stand huddled round the little painted church. Here I 
found one hundred books, all very musty and very unin- 
teresting. I saw no manuscripts whatever, nor was there 


anything worthy of observation in the habitation of the 
impoverished community. Having paid my respects to 
the grim effigies of the bearded saints upon the chapel 
walls, I was let down again by the rope, and walked on, 
still through most romantic scenery, to the monastery of 
Hagia Roserea. 

The rock upon which this monastery stands is about a 
hundred feet high ; it is perfectly isolated, and quite smooth 
and perpendicular on all sides, and so small that there is 
only room enough for the various buildings, without leav- 
ing any space for a garden. In fact, the buildings, although 
far from large, cover the whole summit of the rock. When 
we had shouted and made as much noise as we could for 
some time, an old woman came out upon a sort of wooden 
balcony over our heads ; another woman followed her, and 
they began to talk and scream at us both together, so that 
we could not understand what they said. At last, one of 
them screaming louder than the other, we found that the 
monks were all out, and that these two ladies being the 
only garrison of the place declined the honour of our visit, 
and would not let down the rope ladder, which was drawn 
half way up. We used all the arguments we could think 
of, and told the old gentlewomen that they were the most 
beautiful creatures in the world, but all lo no purpose ; 
they were not to be overcome by our soft speeches, and 
would not let down the ladder an inch. Finding there 
were no hopes of getting in, we told them they were the 
ugliest old wretches in the country, and that we would not 
come near them if they asked us upon their knees ; upon 
which they screamed and chattered louder than ever, and 
we walked off in high indignation. 



The great Monastery of Meteora — The Church— Ugliness of the 
Portraits of Greek Saints — Greek Mode of Washing the Hands— 
A Monastic Supper — Morning View from the Monastery — The 
Library— Beautiful MSS— Their Purchase — The Kitchen — 
Discussion among the Monks as to the Purchase Money for the 
MSS.— -The MSS. reclaimed— A last Look at their Beauties- 
Proposed Assault of the Monastery by the Robber Escort. 

As the day was drawing to a close we turned our 
steps towards the great monastery of Meteora) where 
we arrived just before dark. The vast rock upon 
which it is built is separated from the end of a pro- 
jecting- line of mountains by a widish chasm, at the 
bottom of which we found ourselves, after scrambling 
up a path which wound among masses of rock and 
huge stones which at some remote period had fallen 
from above. 

Having reached the foot of the precipice under the 
monastery, we stopped in the middle of this dark chasm 
and fired a gun, as we had done at the monastery of 
Barlaam. Presently, after a careful reconnoitring from 
several long-bearded monks, a rope with a net at the end 
of it came slowly down to us, a distance of about twenty- 
five fathoms ; and being bundled into the net, I was slowly 
drawn up into the monastery, where I was lugged in at 
the window by two of the strongest of the brethren, and 
after having been dragged along the floor and unpacked, 
I was presented to the admiring gaze of the whole 
reverend community, who were assembled round the 

260 THE CHURCH. Chap. XX. 

capstan. This is by far the largest of the convents in 
this region ; it is also in better order than the others, 
and is inhabited by a greater number of caloyers ; i 
omitted to count their number, but there may have been 
about twenty; the monastery is, however, calculated to 
contain three times that number. The buildings both 
in their nature and arrangement are very similar to 
those of St. Barlaam, excepting that they are somewhat 
more extensive, and that there is a faint attempt at 
cultivating a garden which surrounded three sides of 
the monastery. Like all the other monasteries, it has no 
parapet wall. 

The church had a large open porch before it, where 
some of the caloyers sat and talked in the evening ; it 
was painted in fresco of bright colours, with most edifying 
representations of the tortures and martyrdoms of little 
ugly saints, very hairy and very holy, and so like the old 
caloyers themselves, who were discoursing before them, 
that they might have been taken for their portraits. 
These Greek monks have a singular love for the devil, 
and for everything horrible and hideous. I never saw a 
picture of a well-looking Greek saint anywhere, and yet 
the earlier Greek artists in their conceptions of the per- 
sonages of Holy Writ sometimes approached the sublime ; 
and in the miniatures of some of the manuscripts written 
previous to the twelfth century, which I collected in the 
Levant, there are figures of surpassing dignity and 
solemnity : yet in the Byzantine and Egyptian art that 
purity and angelic expression so much to be admired in 
the works of Beato Angelico, Giovanni Bellini, and other 


early Italian masters, are not to be found. The more 
exalted and refined feeling which prompted the execution 
of those sublime works seems never to have existed in the 
Greek church, which goes on century after century, even 
up to the present time, using the same conventional and 
stiff forms, so that to the unpractised eye there would be 
considerable difficulty in discovering the difference be- 
tween a Greek picture of a saint of the ninth century 
from one of the nineteenth. The agoumenos, a young 
active man with a good deal of intelligence in his 
countenance, sent word that the hour of supper was at 
hand, previously, however, to which I went through the 
process of washing my hands in, or rather over a Turkish 
basin with a perforated cover and a little vase in the 
middle for the piece of fresh-smelling soap in common 
use, which is so very muoh better than ours in England 
that I wonder none has been as yet imported, a venerable 
monk all the while pouring the water over my hands 
from a vessel resembling an antique coffee-pot. I then 
dried my fingers on an embroidered towel, and sat down 
with the agoumenos and another officer of the monastery 
before a metal tray covered with various dainty dishes. 
We three sat upon cushions on the floor, and the tray 
stood upon a wooden stool turned upside down, according 
to the usual fashion of the country : no meat had entered 
into the composition of our feast, but it was very savoury 
nevertheless, and our fingers were soon in the midst of 
the most tempting dishes, knives and forks being con* 
sidered as useless superfluities. When my right hand 
was anointed with any oleaginous mixture, which it was 


▼ery frequently indeed, if I wanted to drink, a monk held 
a silver bowl to my lips and a napkin under my chin, as 
you serve babies ; after which I began again, and with a 
sigh I was obliged to throw myself back from the tray, 
and holding my hands aloft, the perforated basin and the 
coffee-pot made their appearance again. A cup of piping 
hot coffee concluded the evening's entertainment, and T 
retired to another room — the guest chamber — which 
opened upon a narrow court hard by, where all my things 
had been arranged. A long, thin candle was placed on a 
small stool in the middle of the floor, and having winked 
at the long rays which darted out of it for some time, I 
rolled myself into a comfortable position in the corner, and 
was asleep before I had settled upon any optical theory 
to account for them ; nor did the dull, monotonous sound 
of the mallet, which, struck on a suspended board, called 
the good brethren to midnight prayer, disturb me for more 
than a moment. 

Nov. 10. — Just before the dawn of day I opened the 
shutters of the unglazed windows of my room and 
surveyed the scene before me ; all still looked grey and 
cold, and it was only towards the east that the distant out- 
line of the mountains showed clear and distinct against 
the dark sky. By degrees the clouds, which had slept 
upon the shoulders of the hills, rose slowly and heavily, 
whilst the valleys gradually assumed all their soil and 
radiant beauty. It seemed to me as if I should never tire 
of gazing at this view. In the course of time, however, 
breakfast appeared, and having rapidly despatched it, I 
went to look at the buildings and curiosities. 


The church resembles that of St. Barlaam, but it is in 
better order; and the paintings are more brilliant in 
colour and are more profusely decorated with gold. Then* 
is a dome above the centre of the church, and the icono- 
stasis or screen before the altar is ornamented with the 
usual stiff pictures and carving, but the latter is not to be 
compared to that in the monastery of St. Stephanos. There 
were some silver shrines containing relics, but they were 
not particularly interesting either as to workmanship or 
antiquity. The most interesting thing is a picture ascribed 
to St. Luke, which, whatever may be its real history, is 
evidently a very ancient and curious painting. 

The books are preserved in a range of low-vaulted and 
secret rooms, very well concealed in a sort of mezzanine : 
the entrance to them is through a door at the back of a 
cupboard in an outer chamber, in the same way as at St. 
Stephanos. There are about two thousand volumes of 
very rubbishy appearance, not new enough for the monks 
to read or old enough for them to sell ; in fact, they are 
almost valueless. I found, however, a few Aldines and 
Greek books of the sixteenth century, printed in Italy, 
• some of which may be rather rare editions, but I saw 
none of the fifteenth century. I did not count the number 
of the manuscripts ; there are, however, some hundreds 
of them, mostly on paper ; but excepting two, they were 
all liturgies and church books. These two were poems. 
One appeared to be on some religious subject, the other 
was partly historical and partly the poetical effusions of 
St. Athanasius of Meteora. I searched in vain for the 
manuscripts of Hesiod and Sophocles mentioned by 


Biornstern; some later antiquarian may, perhaps, have 
got possession of them and taken them to some country 
where they will be more appreciated than they were here. 
After looking over the books on the shelves, the librarian, 
an old grey-bearded monk, opened a great chest in which 
things belonging to the church were kept ; and here I 
found ten or twelve manuscripts of the Gospels, all of the 
eleventh or twelfth century. They were upon vellum, 
and all, except one, were small quartos ; but tin's one was 
a large quarto, and one of the most beautiful manuscripts 
of its kind I have met with anywhere. In many respects 
it resembled the Codex Ebnerianus in the Bodleian Library 
at Oxford. It was ornamented with miniatures of the 
same kind as those in that splendid volume, but they were 
more numerous and in a good style of art ; it was, in fact, 
as richly ornamented as a Romish missal, and was in ex- 
cellent preservation, except one miniature at the beginning, 
which had been partially smeared over by the wet finger 
of some ancient sloven. Another volume of the Gospels, 
in a very small, clear hand, bound in a kind of silver 
filagree of the same date as the book, also excited my 
admiration. Those who take an interest in literary anti ■ 
quities of this class are aware of the great rarity of an 
ornamental binding in a Byzantine manuscript. This 
must doubtless have been the pocket volume of some royal 
personage. To my great joy the librarian allowed me to 
take these two books to the room of the agoumenos, who 
agreed to sell them to me for I forget how many pieces of 
gold, which I counted out to him immediately, and which 
he seemed to pocket with the sincerest satisfaction. Never 

Chap. XX. 






mm u 

W'A\ii\ 1: 

!.. , "lii',' 1 ■ t • n i " * ' 1 1 H < » ! ■ < I • • ; ' 


was any one more welcome to his money, although I left 
myself but little to pay the expenses of my journey back 
to Corfu. Such books as these would be treasures in the 
finest national collection in Europe. 

We looked at the refectory, which also resembled that 
at Barlaam. The kitchen, however, merits a detailed 
description. This very ancient build- 
ing, perched upon the extreme edge 
of the precipice, was square in its 
plan, with a steep roof of stone, the 
top of which was open. Within, upon 
a square platform of stone, there 
were four columns serving for the support of the roof, 
which was arched all round, except in the space between 
the tops of the columns, where it was open to the sky. 
This platform was the hearth, where the fire was lit, 
whilst smaller fires of charcoal might be lit all round 
against the wall, where there were stone dressers for the 
purpose, so that in fact the building was all chimney and 
fireplace ; and when a great dinner was prepared on a 
feast-day the principal difficulty must have been to have 
prevented the cook from being roasted among the other 
meats. The whole of the arched roof was thickly covered 
with lumps of soot, the accumulations probably of cen- 
turies. The ancient kitchens at Glastonbury and at Stan- 
ton Harcourt are constructed a good deal upon the same 
plan, but this is probably a much earlier specimen of 
culinary architecture. The porch outside the church is 
larger than ordinary, and extends, if I remember rightly, 
along the side of that building which stands in the princi- 



pal court, and is not, as is usually the case, attached to the 
end of the church, over the principal door. 

Having seen all that was worthy of observation, I was 
waiting in the court near the door leading to the place 
where the monks were assembled to lower me down to the 
earth again. Just as I was ready to start there arose a 
discussion among them as to the distribution of the money 
which I had paid for the two manuscripts. The agou- 
menos wanted to keep it all for himself, or at least for the 
expenses of the monastery ; but the villain of a librarian 
swore he would have half. The agoumenos said he should 
not have a farthing, but as the librarian would not give 
way he offered him a part of the spoil ; however, he did 
not offer him enough, and out of spite and revenge, or, as 
he protested, out of uprightness of principle, he told all 
the monks that the agoumenos had pocketed the money 
which he had received for their property, for that they all 
had a right to an equal share in these books, as in all the 
other things belonging to the community. The monks, 
even the most dunderheaded, were not slow in taking this 
view of the subject, and all broke out into a clamorous 
assertion of their rights, every man of them speaking at 
once. The price I had given was so large that every one 
of them would have received several pieces of gold each. 
But no, they said, it was not that, but for the principles of 
justice that they contended. They did not want the 
money, no more did the librarian, but they would not 
suffer their rules to be outraged or their rights to be tram- 
pled under foot. In the monasteries of St. Basil all the 
members of the society had equal rights — they ate in com- 


mon, they prayed in common, everything was bought and 
sold for the benefit of the community at large. Tears fell 
from the eyes of some of the particularly virtuous monks ; 
others stamped upon the ground, and showed a thoroughly 
rebellious spirit As for me, I kept aloof, waiting to see 
what might be the result. 

The agoumenos, who was evidently a man of superior 
abilities, calmly endeavoured to explain. He told the un- 
ruly brethren exactly what the sum was for which he had 
sold the books, and said that the money was not for his 
own private use, but to be laid out for the benefit of all, 
in the same way as the ordinary revenues of the monas- 
tery, which, he added, would soon prove quite insufficient 
if so large a portion of them continued to be divided among 
the individual members. He told them that the monas- 
tery was poor and wanted money, and that this large sum 
would be most useful for certain necessary expenses. But 
although he used many unanswerable arguments, the old 
brute of a librarian had completely awakened the spirit of 
discord, and the ignorant monks were ready to be led into 
rebellion by any one and for any reason or none. At last 
the contest waxed so warm that the sale of the two manu- 
scripts was almost lost sight of, and every one began to 
quarrel with his neighbour, the entire community being 
split into various little angry groups, chattering, gesticu- 
lating, and wagging their long beards. 

After a while the agoumenos, calling my interpreter, 
said that as the monks would not agree to let him keep the 
money in the usual way for the use of the monastery, he 
could have nothing to do with it ; anc) to my great sorrow 


I was therefore obliged to receive it back, and to give up 
the two beautiful manuscripts, which I had already looked 
upon as the chief ornaments of my library in England. 
The monks all looked sadly downcast at this unexpected 
termination of their noble defence of their principles, and 
my only consolation was to perceive that they were quite 
as much vexed as I was. In fact, we felt that we had 
gained a loss all round, and the old librarian, after walking 
up and down once or twice with his hands behind his back 
in gloomy silence, retreated to a hole where he lived, near 
the library, and I saw no more of him. 

My bag was brought forward, and when the books were 
extracted from it, I sat down on a stone in the court yard, 
and for the last time turned over the gilded leaves and 
admired the ancient and splendid illuminations of the 
larger manuscript, the monks standing round me as I 
looked at the blue cypress-trees, and green and gold pea- 
cocks, and intricate arabesques, so characteristic of the 
best times of Byzantine art. Many of the pages bore a 
great resemblance to the painted windows of the earlier 
Norman cathedrals of Europe. It was a superb old book : 
I laid it down upon the stone beside me and placed the 
little volume with its curious silver binding on the top of 
it, and it was with a sigh that I left them there with the 
sun shining on the curious silver ornaments. 

Amongst other arguments it had been asserted by some of 
the monks that nothing could be sold out of the monastery 
without leave of the Bishop of Tricala, and, as a forlorn 
hope, they now proposed that the agoumenos should go to 
acme place in the vicinity where the bishop was said to be, 


and that, if he gave permission, the two books should be 
forwarded immediately by a trusty man to the khan of 
Malacash, where I was to pass the night. I consented to 
this plan, although I had no hope of obtaining the manu- 
scripts, as in the present unsettled state of the country the 
bishop would naturally calculate on the probability of the 
messenger being robbed, and on the improbability of his 
meeting me at the khan, as it would be absolutely neces- 
sary for me to leave the place before sunrise the next 

All this being arranged I proceeded to the chamber of 
the windlass, was put into the net, swung out into the air, 
and let down. They let me down very badly, being all 
talking and scolding each other ; and had I not made use 
of my hands and feet to keep myself clear of the projecting 
points of the rock I should have fared badly. To increase 
my perils, my friends the palicari at the bottom, to testify 
their joy at my reappearance, rested their long guns across 
their knees and fired them off, without the slightest atten- 
tion to the direction of the barrels, which were all loaded 
with ball-cartridge : the bullets spattered against the rock 
close to me, and in the midst of the smoke I came down 
and was caught in the arms of my affectionate thieves, who 
bundled me out of my net with many extraordinary 
screeches of welcome. 

When my servants arrived and informed them of our 
recent disappointment, " What ! " cried they, " would they 
not let you take the books ? Stop a bit, we will soon get 
them for you V And away they ran to the series of lad- 
ders which hung down another part of the precipice : they 


would have been up in a minute, for they scrambled like 
cats ; but by dint of running after them and shouting, we 
at length got them to come back, and after some conside- 
rable expenditure of oaths and exclamations, kicking of 
horses, and loading of guns and saddle-bags, we found 
ourselves slowly winding our way back towards the 
valley of the Peneus. 

After all, what an interesting event it would have been, 
what a standard anecdote in bibliomaniac history, if I had 
let my friendly thieves have their own way, and we had 
stormed the monastery, broken open the secret door of the 
library, pitched the old librarian over the rocks, and 
marched off in triumph, with a gorgeous manuscript under 
each arm ! Indeed I must say that under such aggra- 
vating circumstances it required a great exercise of 
forbearance not to do so, and in the good old times many % 
castle has been attacked and many a town besieged and 
pillaged for much slighter causes of offence than those 
which I had to complain of. 



Return Journey — Narrow Escape — Consequences of Singing — Ar- 
rival at the Khan of Malacash— Agreeable Anecdote — Parting 
from the Robbers at Mezzovo— A Pilau— Wet Ride to Parama- 
thia — Accident to the Baggage Mule — ltd wonderful Escape- 
Novel Costume — A Deputation — -Return to Corfu. 

We made our way from the plain and rocks of Meteora by 
a different path from the one by which we had arrived, 
and travelled along the north side of the valley of the 
Peneus ; we kept along the side of the hills, which were 
covered sometimes with forest and sometimes with a kind 
of jungle or underwood. 

During the afternoon of this day, as I was singing away 
"" as usual in advance of my party, some one shouted to me 
from the thicket, but I took no notice of it. However, be- 
fore I had ridden on many steps a man jumped out of the 
bush, seized hold of my horse's bridle, and proceeded to 
draw his pistol from his belt, but luckily the lock had got 
entangled in the shawl which he wore round his waist. I 
pushed my horse against him, and in a moment one of us 
v would have been shot ; when the appearance of three or 
four bright gun-barrels in the bushes close by stopped our 
proceedings. My men now came running up. 

" Hallo !" said one of them. " Is that you ? You 
must not attack this gentleman. He is our friend ; he 
is one of us." 

u What !" said the man who had stopped me ; " Is that 
you, Mahommed ? Is that you, Hassan ? What are you 


doing here ? How is this ? Is this your friend ? I 
thought he was a Frank." 

In short, they explained what kind of brotherhood we 
had entered into, where we had been, and where we were 
going, and all about it. I did not understand much of 
their conversation, and in the midst of it the Albanian 
came up to me with a reproachful air and told me that 
they said my being stopped was owing to my singing, and 
making such a noise. " Why, Sir," he added, " can't 
you ride quietly, without letting people know where you 
are? Why can't you do as others do, and be still, 
like a—" 

"Thief," said I. 

" Yes, Sir ; or like a quiet traveller. In such trouble- 
some times as these, however honest a man may be, he 
need not try to excite attention." 

I felt that the advice was good, and practised it occa- 
sionally afterwards. 

In seven hours' time we arrived at the khan of Mala- 
cash, where I had slept before ; ami my carpet was spread 
in my old corner. I heard my companions talking 
earnestly about something, and on asking what it was, I 
was told that they could not make out which room it was 
where the people had been murdered — this room or the 
outer one. 

" How was that ?" I inquired. 

" Why, some time ago, they said, a party of travellers, 
people belonging to the country, were attacked by robbers 
at this khan. One of the party, after he had been 
plundered, had the imprudence to say that he knew who 


the thieves were. Upon this the gang, after a short con- 
sulfation, took the party out, one by one, and cut all their 
throats in the next room ; and this was before the present 
disturbed state of the country. Nevertheless, I slept very 
soundly, my only sorrow being that no tidings came of the 
two manuscripts from Meteora. 

November 1 lth. — In our journey of this day we crossed 
the chain of the Pindus by a different pass from the one 
by which we had traversed it before ; and in the evening 
we arrived at Mezzovo, where I was lodged by a school- 
master who had a comfortable house. The ceiling of the 
room where we sat was hung all over with bunches of 
dried or rather drying grapes. Here I presented each 
of my escort with a small bundle of piasters. We had 
become so much pleased with each other in the few days 
we had been together, that we had quite an affecting 
parting. Their chief, the red velvet personage from whom 
I had received the letter which gained me the pleasure of 
their company, was gone, it appeared, towards Berat ; but 
they had found some of their companions, with whom they 
intended to retire to some small place of defence, the 
name of which I did not make out, where in a few days 
they expected to be told what they were to do. 

" Why won't you come with us ?" said they. " Don't 
go back to live in a confined, stupid town, to sit all day in 
a house, and look out of the window. Go back with us 
into the mountains, where we know every pass, every 
rock, and every waterfall : you shall command us ; we 
would get some more men together : we will go wherevei 

you like, and a rare jolly life we will lead." 


" Gentlemen," said I, " I take your kind offers as highly 
complimentary to me ; I am proud to think I have gained 
so high a place in your estimation. When you see your 
captain, pray assure him of my friendship, and how much 
I feel indebted to him for having given me such gallant 
and faithful guards." 

The poor fellows were evidently sorry to leave me ; 
one of them, the most active and gay of the whole party, 
seemed more than half inclined to cry ; so, cordially 
shaking hands with them before the door of the school- 
master of Mezzovo, we parted, with expressions of mutual 

" Thank goodness they are gone !" said the little 
schoolmaster ; " those pelicari are all over the country 
now ; some belong to one chief, some to another ; some 
are for Mahmoud Pasha, and some against him ; but I 
don't know which party is the worst ; they are all rogues, 
every one of them, when they have an opportunity- 
scamps ! sad scamps ! These are hard times for quiet, 
peaceably- disposed people. So now, Sir, we will come in, 
and lock the door, and make up the fire, for the nights are 
getting cold." 

The schoolmaster had a snug fireplace, with a good 
divan on each side of it, of blue cl©th or baize. These 
divans came close up to the hearth, which, like the divans, 
was raised two feet above the floor. The good man 
brought out his little stores of preserves and marmalade. 
He was an old bachelor, and we soon made ouraelves very 
comfortable, one on each side of the fire. We had a 
famous pilau, made by my " arlist," and the schoolmaster 


gave us raisins to put in it — not that they are a necessary 
part of that excellent condiment, but he had not much else 
to give ; so we flavoured the pilau with raisins, as if it 
had been a lamb, which, by the by, is the prince of Oriental 
dishes, and, when stuffed with almonds, raisins, pistachio 
nuts, rice, bread-crumbs, pepper and salt, and well roasted, 
is a dish to set before a king. 

The schoolmaster, judging of me by the company I 
kept, never suspected my literary pursuits, and was sur- 
prised when I asked him if he knew of anything in that 
line, and assured him that I had no objection to do a little 
business in the manuscript way. He said he knew of an 
old merchant who had a great many books, and that to- 
morrow we would go and see them. Accordingly, the 
next day we went to see the merchant's house ; but his 
collection was good for nothing ; and after returning for 
an hour or two to the schoolmaster's hospitable mansion, 
we got into marching order, and defiled off the village 
green of Mezzovo. 

After fording the river thirty-nine times, as we had 
done before, our jaded steeds at last stood panting under 
the windows of the doctor at Yanina, whose comfortable 
house we had left only a few days before. I stayed at 
Yanina one day, but the Pasha could not see me to hear 
my account of the protection I had enjoyed from his 
firman. A messenger had arrived from Constantinople, 
and the report in the town was that the Pasha would lose 
his head or his pashalic if he did not put down the dis- 
turbances which had arisen iii every part of his govern* 
ment. Some said he would escape by bribing the 


ministers of the Porte ; but as I was no politician I did not 
trouble myself much on the subject. His Highness, 
however, was good enough to send me word that he would 
give me any assistance that I needed. Accordingly, I 
asked for a tesk6r6 for post-horses ; and the next day 
galloped in ten hours to Paramathia. All day long the 
rain poured down in torrents, and I waded through the 
bed of the swollen stream, which usually served for a 
high-road, I do not know how many times. I was told 
the distance was about sixty miles ; and it was one of the 
hardest day's riding I ever accomplished ; for there 
was nothing deserving the name of a road any part of 
the way ; and the entire day was passed in tearing up 
and down the rocks or wading in the swollen stream. 
The rain and the cold compelled us and our horses to 
do our best : in a hot day we could never have accom- 
plished it. 

Towards the afternoon, when we were, by computation, 
about twenty-five miles from Paramathia, as we were 
proceeding at a trot along a narrow ledge above a stream, 
the baggage horse, or mule I think he was, whose halter 
was tied to the crupper of my horse, suddenly missed his 
footing, and fell over the precipice. He caught upon the 
edge with his fore-feet, the halter supported his head, and 
my horse immediately stopping, leant with all his might 
against the wall of rock which rose above us, squeezing 
my left leg between it and the saddle. The noise of the 
wind and rain, and the dashing of the torrent underneath, 
prevented my servants hearing my shouts for assistance, 
I was the last of the party ; and I had the pleasure of 


seeing all my company trotting on, rising in the stirrups, 
and bumping along the road before me, unconscious of 
anything having occurred to check their progress towards 
the journey's end. It was so bad a day mat no one 
thought of anything but getting on. Every man for him- 
self was the order of the day. I could not dismount, 
because my left leg was squeezed so tightly against the 
rock, that I every moment expected the bone to snap. 
My horse's feet were projected towards the edge of the 
precipice, and in this way he supported the fallen mule, 
who endeavoured to retain his hold with his chin and 
his fore-legs. There we were — the mule's eyeballs 
almost starting out of his head, and all his muscles 
quivering with the exertion. At last something cracked : 
the staple in the back of my saddle gave way ; off 
flew the crupper, and I thought at first my horse's tail 
was gone with it. The baggage-mule made one desperate 
scrambling effort, but it was of no use, and down he went, 
over and over among the crashing bushes far beneath, 
until at length he fell with a loud splash into the waters 
of the stream. Some of the people hearing the noise made 
by the falling mule, turned round and came back to see 
what was the matter ; and, horse and men, we all craned 
our necks over the edge to see what had become of our 
companion. There he was in the river, with nothing but 
his head above the water. With some difficulty we made 
our way down to the edge of the torrent. The mule 
kept looking at us very quietly all the while till we got 
close to him, when the muleteer proceeded to assist him 
by banging him on the head with a great branch of a treej 

278 paramathia. Chap. XXL 

upon which he took to struggling and scrambling, and at 
last, to the surprise of all, came out apparently unhurt, at 
least with no bones broken. The men looked him over, 
walked him about, gave him a kick or two by way of 
asking him how he was, and then placing his load upon 
him again, we pursued our journey. 

Before dark we .arrived at Paramathia, and went 
straight to the house where we had been so hospitably 
received before. We crawled up like so many drowned 
rats into the upper rooms, where we were met by the 
whole troop of ladies, giggling, screaming, and talking, as 
if they had never stopped since we left them a week 
before. When the baggage came to be undone, alas ! 
what a wreck was there ! The coffee and the sugar 
and the shirts had formed an amalgam ; mud, shoes, and 
cambric handerchiefs all came out together ; not a thing 
was dry. The only consolation was that the beautiful 
illuminated manuscripts of Meteora had not participated in 
this dirty deluge. 

I was wet to the skin, and my boots were full of water. 
In this dilemma I asked if our hosts could not lend me 
something to put on until some of my clothes could be 
dried. The ladies were full of pity and compassion ; but 
unfortunately all the men were from home, not having 
returned from their daily occupations in the bazaar, and 
their clothes could not be got at. At last the good- 
humoured young bride, seeing that wherever I stood there 
was always, in a couple of minutes' time, a puddle upon 
the floor, entered into an animated consultation with tha 
other ladies, and before long they brought me a shirt, and 


an immense garment it was, like an English surplice, 
embroidered in gay colours down the seams. The 
fair bride contributed the white capote, which I re- 
membered on my former visit, and a girdle. I soon 
donned this extempore costume. My wet clothes were 
taken to a great fire, which was lit for the purpose in 
another room, and I proceeded to dry my hair with a 
long narrow towel, its ends heavy with gold embroidery, 
which one of the ladies warmed for me, and twisted 
round my head in the way usual in the Turkish bath — 
a method of drying the head well known in most eastern 
towns, and which saves a great deal of trouble and 
exertion in rubbing and brushing according to the 
European method. 

I had ensconced myself in the corner of the divan, 
having nothing else in the way of clothes beyond what I 
have mentioned, and was employed in looking at one of 
my feet, which I had stuck out for the purpose, admiring 
it in all its pristine beauty, for there were no spare slip- 
pers to be had, when the curtain was suddenly lifted from 
the door, and my servant rushed in and told me with 
a troubled voice, that the authorities of Paramathia, grieved 
at their remissness on the former occasion, had presented 
themselves to compliment me on my arrival in their town, 
and had brought me a present of tobacco or something, I 
forget what, in testimony of their anxiety to show their 
good will and respect to so distinguished a personage as 
myself. " Don't let them in !" I exclaimed. " Tell them 
I will receive them to-morrow. Say anything, but only 
keep them out." But this was more than my servants 


could accomplish. My friends at Corfu had sent letters 
explaining the prodigious honour conferred upon the whole 
province of Albania by my presence, so that nothing could 
stop them, and in walked a file of grave elders in long 
gowns, one or two in stately fur pelisses, which I envied 
them very much. They took very little notice of me, as 
I sat screwed up in the corner, and all, ranging themselves 
upon the divan on the opposite side of the room, sat in 
solemn silence, looking at me out of the corners of their 
eyes, whenever they thought they could do so without my 
perceiving it. 

My servant stood in the middle of the room to interpret ; 
and after he had remained there a prodigious while, as it 
seemed to me, the most venerable of the old gentlemen at 
last said, " I am Signor Dimitri So-and-so ; this is Signor 
Anastasi So-and-so ; this gentleman is uncle to the master 
of the house ; and so on. We are come to pay our 
respects to the noble and illustrious Englishman who 
passed through this place before. Pray have the goodness 
to signify our arrival to his Excellency, and say that we 
are waiting here to have the honour of offering him our 
services. Where is the respected Milordos V 9 Although 
I could not speak Romaic, yet I understood it sufficiently 
to know what the old gentleman was saying ; and great 
was their surprise and admiration when they found that 
the unhappy and very insufficiently-clothed little fellow in 
the corner was the illustrious milordos himself. The said 
milordos had now to explain how all his baggage had been 
upset over a precipice, and that he was not exactly pre- 
pared to receive so distinguished a party. After mutual 


apologies, which ended in a good laugh all round, pipes 
and coffee were brought in. The visit of ceremony was 
concluded in as dignified a manner as circumstances would 
permit ; and they went away convinced that I must be a 
very great man in my own country, as I did not get up 
more than a few inches to salute them, either on their en- 
try or departure — a most undue assumption of dignity 
on my part which I sincerely regretted, but which the 
state of my costume rendered absolutely necessary. 

November 15th. — The morning of the following day was 
bright and clear. I procured fresh horses, and galloped in 
six hours to the sea of Gominiza. A small vessel was 
riding at anchor near the shore, whose captain immedi- 
ately closed with the offer of four dollars to carry me over 
to Corfu. I was soon on board; and, creeping into a 
small three-cornered hole under the half-deck, to which 1 
gained access by a hatchway about a foot and a half 
square, I rolled myself up upon some ropes, and fell asleep 
at once. It seemed as if I had not been asleep an instant, 
when my servant, putting his head into the square aperture 
above, said, " Signore siamo qui." " Yes," said I, " but 
where is that ? What ! are we really at Corfu ?" I 
popped my head out of the trap, and- there we were sure 
enough — my fatigue of the day before having made me 
sleep so soundly that I had been perfectly unconscious of 
the duration of the voyage ; and I landed on the quay con- 
gratulating myself on having accomplished the most dan* 
gerous and most rapid expedition that it ever was my 
fortune to undertake. 




Constantinople— The Patriarch's Palace — The Plague, Anecdotes, 
Superstitions— The Two Jews — Interview with the Patriarch — 
Ceremonies of Reception — The Patriarch's Misconception as to 
the Archbishop of Canterbury — He addresses a Firman to the 
Monks of Mount Athos — Preparations for Departure — The Ugly 
Greek Interpreter — Mode of securing his Fidelity. 

I had been for some time enjoying the hospitality of Lord and 
Lady Ponsonby at the British palace at Therapia, when I de- 
termined to put into execution a project I had long entertained 
of examining the libraries in the monasteries of Mount Athos. 
As no traveller had been there since the days of Dr. Clarke, 
I could obtain but little information about the place before 
I left England. But the Archbishop of Canterbury was 
kind enough to give me a letter to the Patriarch of Con* 
stantinople, in which he requested him to furnish me with 
any facilities in his power in my researches among the 
Greek monasteries which owned his sway. 

Armed with this valuable document, one day in the 
spring of the year 1837 I started in a cafque with some 
gentlemen of the embassy, and proceeded to the palace of 
the Patriarch in the Fanar — a part of Constantinople situ . 
ated between the ancient city wall and the port so well 
known by its name of the Golden Horn. The Fanar does 
not derive its appellation from the word fanar, a lantern 
or lighthouse, but from the two words fena yer, a bad 


place ; for it is in a low, dirty situation, where only the 
conquered Greeks were permitted to reside immediately 
after the conquest of their metropolis by the Sultan Ma- 
hommed II. The palace is a large, dilapidated, shabby- 
looking building, chiefly of wood painted black ; it stands 
in an open court or yard on a steep slope, and looks out 
over some lower houses to the Golden Horn and the hills 
of Pera and Galata beyond.* 

After waiting a little while in a large, dirty ante-room, 
during which time there was a scuffling and running up 
and down of priests and deacons, who were surprised and 
perhaps a little alarmed at a visit from so numerous a 
company of gentlemen belonging to the British embassy, 
we were introduced into a large square room furnished 
with a divan under the windows and down two sides of 
the chamber. This divan was covered with a rough sack- 
ing of grey goats' hair — a stuff which is said not to be 
susceptible of the plague ; and people sitting on it, or on 
the bare boards, are npt considered to be " compromised " 
— a word of fearful import when that awful pestilence is 
raging in this neglected city. When any person is com- 

* On another occasion some years afterwards, I was waiting in 
the same place, when I wandered into the new Patriarchal church 
which opens on this court; while I stood there, a corpse was 
brought in on a bier, followed by many persons, who I suppose were 
the relations and friends of the deceased. After the funeral ser- 
vice had been read by a priest, every person in the church went up 
to the bier and kissed the dead man's hand and forehead : this is 
the usual custom, and an affecting one to see when friends bid 
friends a last farewell. But this man had died of some fearful and 
horrible disease, perhaps the plague, which through this horrid 
means may have been distributed to half the congregation. 


promised, he is obliged to separate from all society, and to 
place himself in strict quarantine for forty days, at the end 
of which period, if the fright and anxiety have not brought 
on the plague, he is received again by his acquaintances. 
Dealers in oil, and persons who have an open issue on their 
bodies, are considered secure from the plague as far as 
they themselves are concerned ; but as their clothes will 
convey the infection, they are as dangerous as others to 
their neighbours. 

There was an old Armenian, who, whether he consi- 
dered himself invulnerable, or whether poverty and mis- 
fortune made him reckless, I do not know ; but he set up 
as a plague-doctor, and visited and touched those who were 
stricken with the pestilence. Whenever he came down 
the street, every one would start aside and give him three 
or four yards' space at least. Sometimes he had men who 
walked before him and cried to the people to get out of the 
way. As the old man moved on in his long, dark robes, 
shunned with such horror by all, the mind was awfully 
impressed with the fearful nature of the disease ; for if 
the Prince of Darkness himself had made his appearance 
in the face of day, no one could have shown greater alarm 
at his approach than they did when the men cried out that 
the Armenian plague-doctor was coming down the street. 

One peculiarity of the disease is the disinclination which 
is always shown by those who are plague-stricken to con- 
fess that they are so, or even to own that they are ill. 
They invariably conceal it as long as possible ; and even 
when burning with fever and in an agony of pain, they 
will pretend that they are well, and try to walk about. 


But this attempt at deception continues for a very short 
period, for they soon become either delirious or insensible, 
and generally are unable to move. There is a look about 
the eye and an expression of anxiety and horror in the face 
of one who has got the plague which is not to be mistaken 
nor forgotten by those who have once seen them. One 
day at Galata I nearly ran against a man who was sitting 
on the ground on a hand-bier, upon which some Turks 
were about to carry him away ; and the look of the unfor- 
tunate man's face haunted me for days. The expression 
of hopeless despair and agony was indeed but too applicable 
to his case ; they were going to carry him to the plague 
hospital, from whence I never heard of any one returning. 
It would have been far more merciful to have shot him at 

There are many curious superstitions and circum- 
stances connected with the plague. One is, that when 
the destroying angel enters into a house the dogs of the 
quarter assemble in the night and howl before the door ; 
and the Greeks firmly believe that the dogs can see the 
evil spirit of the plague, although it is invisible to human 
eyes. Some people, however, are said to have seen the 
plague, its appearance being that of an old woman, tall, 
thin, and ghastly, and dressed sometimes in black, some- 
times in white: she stalks along the streets — glides 
through the doors of the • habitations of the condemned — 
and walks once round the room of her victim, who is from 
that moment death-smitten. It is also asserted that, when 
three small spots make their appearance upon the knee, 
the patient is doomed — he has got the plague, and his 

286 THE PLAGUE. Chap. XXII. 

fate is sealed. They are called the pilotti — the pilots and 
harbingers of death. Some, however, have recovered 
after these spots have shown themselves. 

I had at this time a lodging in a house at Pera, which 
I occupied when anything brought me to Constantinople 
from Therapia. On one occasion I was sitting with a 
gentleman whose filial piety did him much honour, for he 
had attended his father through the horrors of this illness, 
and he had died of the plague in his arms, when we heard 
the dogs baying in an unusual wayi* On looking out of 
the window there they were all of a row, seated against 
the opposite wall, howling mournfully, and looking up at 
the house in the moonlight. One dog looked very hard at 
me, I thought: I did not like it at all, and began to 
investigate whether I had not some pain or other about 
me; and this comfortable feeling was not diminished 
when my friend's Arab servant came into the room and 
said that another person who lodged in the house was 
very unwell ; it was said that he had had a fall from his 
horse that morning. The dogs, though we escaped the 
plague ourselves, were right ; the plague had got into one 
of the houses close to us in the same street ; but how 
many died of it I did not learn. 

It was about this time that two Jews — extortioners, 
poor men, whom consequently nobody cared about — were 
walking together in a narrow street at Galata, when they 
both dropped down stricken with the plague : there they 

* All eastern cities are infested with troops of half-wild dogs, 
who act the part of scavengers, and live upon the refuse food 
which is thrown into the streets. 


lay upon the ground ; no one would touch them ; and, as 
the street was extremely narrow, no one could pass that 
way ; it was in effect blocked up by the two unhappy 
men. They did not die quickly. " The devil was sure 
of them," the charitable people said, " so he was in no 
hurry." There they lay a long time — many days ; and 
people called to them, and put their heads round the 
corner of the street to look at them. Some, tenderer- 
hearted than the rest, got a long pole from a dyer's shop 
hard by, and pushed a tub of water to them, and threw 
them some bread, for no one dared approach them. One 
Jew was quiet: he ate a little bread and drank some 
water, and lay still. The other was violent: the pain of 
his livid swellings drove him wild, and he shouted and 
raved and twisted about upon the ground. The people 
looked at him from the corner, and shuddered as they 
quickly drew back their heads. He died ; and the other 
Jew still lay there, quiet as he was before, close to the 
quiet corpse of his poor friend. For some time they did 
not know whether he was dead or not ; but at last they 
found he drank no more water and ate no more bread ; so 
they knew that he had died also. There lay the two 
bodies in the way, till some one paid a hamal — a Turkish 
porter — who, being a staunch predestinarian, caring 
neither for plague, nor Jew, nor Gentile, dead or alive, 
carried off the two bodies on his back ; and then the street 
was passable again. 

The Turks have a touching custom when the plague 
rages very greatly, and a thousand corpses are carried 
out daily from Stamboul through the Adrianople gate to 


the great groves of cypress which rise over the burial- 
grounds beyond the walls. At times of terror and grief, 
such as these, the Sheikh Ul Islam causes all the little 
children to be assembled on a beautiful green hill called 
the Oc Maidan — the Place of Arrows — and there they 
bow down upon the ground, and raise their innocent voices 
La supplication to the Father of Mercy, and implore his 
compassion on the afflicted city. 

But the grey goats' hair divan of the Patriarch's hall of 
audience has led me a long way from the Patriarch him- 
self, who entered the chamber shortly after our arrival. 
He appeared to be rather a young man, certainly not more 
than thirty-five years of age, with a reddish beard, which 
is uncommon in this country. He was dressed in purple 
silk robes, like a Greek bishop, and took his seat in the 
corner of the divan, and said nothing, and stroked his 
beard as a pasha might have done. 

When we had made our " t6menahs," that is, salu- 
tations and little bows, &c, and were still again, the 
curtain over the doorway was pushed aside, and various 
priestly servants, all without shoes, came in, one of them 
bearing a richly embossed silver tray, on which were 
disposed small spoons filled with a preserve of lemon- peel ; 
each of us took a spoonful, and returned the spoon to the 
dish. Then came various servants — as many servants as 
guests — and one presented to each of us a cut-glass cup 
with a lid, full of fresh spring-water. Then these dis- 
appeared ; and others came in bearing pipes to each of us 
— a separate servant always coming in for each person of 
the company. After we had smoked our pipes for a 


short time, a mighty crowd of attendants again entered at 
the bottom of the room, among whom was one with a tray, 
which was covered over with a satin shawl or cover as 
richly embroidered with gold as was possible for its size, 
and with a deep gold fringe. Another servant took off 
this covering, and placed it over the left shoulder of the 
tray-bearer, who stood like a statue all the while. Now 
appeared a man with a silver censer suspended by three 
silver chains, and having a coffee-pot standing upon the 
burning coals within it. Another man took off the cups 
which were upon the tray, filled them with coffee ; and 
then various servants, each armed with a coffes-ctrp 
placed on its silver zarf or saucer, which he held in his 
left hand with his thumb and forefinger only, strode forward 
with one accord, and we all at the same moment were pre- 
sented with our diminutive cup of coffee ; the attendants 
received the empty cups with both hands, and, walking 
backwards, disappeared as silently as they came. All this 
is a scene of everyday occurrence in the East, and, with 
more or less of display, takes place in the house of every 
person of consideration. 

When we had smoked our pipes for awhile, and all the 
servants had gone away, I presented the letter of the 
Archbishop of Canterbury. It was received in due form ; 
and, after a short explanatory exordium, was read aloud to 
the Patriarch, first in English, and then translated into 

" And who," quoth the Patriarch of Constantinople, the 
supreme head and primate of the Greek Church of Asia 
— " who is the Archbishop of Canterbury ?" 



" What ?" said I, a little astonished at the question, 

" Who," said he, " is this Archbishop ?" 

" Why, the Archbishop of Canterbury." 

" Archbishop of what ?" said the Patriarch. 

" Canterbury," said I. 

" Oh," said the Patriarch. " Ah ! yes ! and who is 

Here all my English friends and myself were taken 
aback sadly; we had not imagined that the high-priest 
before us could be ignorant of such a matter as the one 
in question. The Patriarch of the Greek church, the 
successor of Gregory Nazianzen, St. John Chrysostom, 
and the heresiarch Nestorius, seemed not to be aware that 
there were any other denominations of Christians besides 
those of his own church and the Church of Rome. But 
the fact is that the Patriarch of Constantinople is merely 
the puppet of an intriguing faction of the Greek bankers 
and usurers of the Fanar, who select for the office some 
man of straw whom they feel secure they can rule, and 
whose appointment they obtain by a heavy bribe paid to 
the Sultan ; for the head of the Christian Church is 
appointed by the Mahomedan Emperor ! 

We explained, and said that the Archbishop of Canter- 
bury was a man eminent for his great learning and his 
Christian virtues; that he was the primate and chief of 
the great reformed Church of England, and a personage 
of such high degree, that he ranked next to the blood- 
royal ; that from time immemorial the Archbishop of 
Canterbury was the great dignitary who placed the crown 
upon the head of our kings — those kings whose power 


swayed the destinies of Europe and of the world ; a no 
that this present Archbishop and Primate had himself 
placed the crown upon the head of King William IV., 
and that he would also soon crown our young Queen. 

" Well," replied the Patriarch, " but how is that ? how 
can it happen that the head of your Church is only an 
Archbishop? whereas I, the Patriarch, command other 
patriarchs, and under them archbishops, archimandrites, 
and other dignitaries of the Church? How can these 
things be ? I cannot write an answer to the letter of the 
Archbishop of—of — " 

" Of Canterbury," said I. 

" Yes ! of Canterbury ; for I do not see how he who 
is only an archbishop can by any possibility be the head 
of a Christian hierarchy ; but as you come from the 
British embassy I will give my letters as you desire, 
which will ensure your reception into every monastery 
which acknowledges the supremacy of the orthodox faith 
of the Patriarch of Constantinople." 

He then sent for his secretary, that I might give that 
functionary my name and designation. The secretary 
accordingly appeared ; and, although there are only six 
letters in my name, he set it down incorrectly nearly a 
dozen times, and then went away to his hole in a window, 
where he wrote curious little memoranda at the Patriarch's 
dictation, from which he drew up the firman which was 
sent me a few days afterwards, and which I found of great 
service in my visits to various monasteries. As few Pro- 
testants have been favoured with a document of this sort 
from the Primate of the Greek Church, I subjoin a trans* 

292 the patriarch's FIRMAN. Chap. XXIL 

lation of it. It will be perceived that it is written much 
in the style of the epistles of the early patriarchs to the 
archbishops and bishops of their provinces. To the 
requisitions contained in this firman it was incumbent 
upon those to whom it was addressed to pay implicit obe- 

My business being thus happily concluded with this 
learned personage, we all smoked away again for a short 
time in tranquil silence ; and then the Universal Patriarch 

• Direction. — " To the blessed Inspectors, Officers, Chiefs, and 

Representatives of the Holy Community of Monte Santo, 

and to the Holy Fathers of the same, and of all other sacred 

convents, our beloved Sons. 

" We, Gregorios, Patriarch, Archbishop Universal, Metropolitan 

of Constantinople, &c. &c. &c. 

" Blessed Inspectors, Officers, Superiors, and Representatives of 
the Community of the Holy Mountain, and other Holy 
Fathers of the same, and of the other Holy and Venerable 
Convents subject to our holy universal Throne. Peace be 
to you. 
44 The bearer of the present, our patriarchal sheet, the Honour- 
able Robert Curzon, of a noble English family, recommended to us 
by most worthy and much- honoured persons, intending to travel 
and wishing to be instructed in the old and new philology, thinks 
to satisfy his curiosity by repairing to those sacred convents which 
may have any connexion with his intentions. We recommend his 
person, therefore, to you all : and we order and require of you, 
that you not only receive him with every esteem and every possi- 
ble hospitality, in each and in the several holy convents ; but to 
lend yourselves readily to all his wants and desires, and to give 
him precise and clear explanations, to all his interrogations rela- 
tive to his philological examinations, obliging yourselves, and 
lending yourselves, in a manner not only fully to satisfy, and con- 
tent him, but so that he shall approve of and praise your conduct. 
** This we desire and require to be executed, rewarding you 
irith the Divine and with our blessing. 

" (Signed) Grkgorios, Universal Patriarch 
«• Constantinople, 1, (13) July, 1837." 

Chap. XXn. GBEEK SERVANT. 298 

—for so he styles himself— clapped his hands and in 
swarmed the whole tribe of silent, bare-footed priestly 
followers, bringing us sherbet, in glass cups. Whilst we 
drank it, their reverences held the saucer under our chins : 
and when we had enough, those who chose it wiped their 
lips and moustaches on a long, narrow towel, richly 
embroidered at the two ends with gold and bright coloured 
silks. I prefer on these occasions my pocket-handkerchief, 
as the period at which these rich towels are washed is by 
no means a matter of certainty. We took our leave with 
the numerous bows and compliments, and went on our 
way rejoicing. 

My preparations for my expedition were soon made. I 
hired a Greek servant, who I intended should serve as 
interpreter and factotum. He was a sharp, active man — 
as most Greeks are ; and he had an intelligent way of 
doing things, which pleased me ; but he was an ugly, thin, 
little fellow, and his right eye had a curious obliquity of 
vision, which was not particularly calculated to inspire 
confidence. As nobody else was to accompany me I made 
various inquiries about him, and, although I did not hear 
any particular harm of him, yet I failed to become ac- 
quainted with any good actions of his performance ; and 
as I was going into a country which at that time was 
almost entirely unknown, and which had moreover an 
unpleasant celebrity for pirates, klephti, and other sorts of 
thieves, I felt that the moral character of my new follower 
was an important consideration ; and that if I could prop 
up his honesty and fidelity by any artificial means, I might 
not be doing amiss. . 


In a few days the firman or letter of the patriarch 
arrived, and I packed my things and got ready to start. 
Unknown to my servant I had caused a belt of wash- 
leather to be made, in which were numerous little divisions 
calculated to hold a good many pieces of gold without 
their jingling, and it had a long flap which buttoned down 
over the series of compartments. I had besides a large 
ostentatious purse, in which was a small sum for the 
expenses of the journey, and as I wished to have it sup- 
posed that I had but little cash, I made my Greek buy 
various things for me out of his own money. All being 
ready, we started in a caique very early in the morning, 
and went down the Bosphorus from Therapia to Stamboul, 
where we got on board a steamer. On handing up the 
things, my servant found that his box, in which were his 
new clothes and valuables, was missing — his bag only had 
come. " Good gracious !" said I, " was that the box with 
two straps ?" " Yes," said he, " a handsome brown box, 
about so large." " Well," said I, " it is a most unfortu- 
nate thing ; but when I saw that box in my room this 

morning I locked it up in the closet and told H not to 

give up the key of the door to anybody till I returned to 
the embassy again. How very unlucky ! however, we 
shall soon be back, and you have biancheria enough in 
your bag for so short a journey as the one before us." 
We were soon under way, and passing the Seraglio Point 
stood down the swift current in the sea of Marmora, our 
l u gg a g e encumbering but a very small space upon the 



Coom Calessi — Uncomfortable Quarters — A Turkish Boat and its- 
Crew — Grandeur of the Scenery — Legend of Jason and the 
Golden Fleece — The Island of Imbros — Heavy Rain Storm— A 
Rough Sea — Lemnos — Bad Accommodation — The Old Woman's 
Mattress and its Contents— Striking View of Mount Athos from 
the Sea— The Hermit of the Tower. 

On landing at Coom Calessi, the European castle of the 
Dardanelles, I found that there was no inn or hotel in the 
place ; but it appeared that the British consul, who lived 
on the top of the hill two miles off, had built a new house 
in the town for purposes of business, and upon the pay- 
ment of a perquisite to the Jew who acted as his factotum, 
I was presently installed in the new house, which, as 
houses go in this country, was clean and good, but not a 
scrap of furniture was there in it, not even a pipkin or a 
casserole — it was as empty as any house could be. I sent 
my man out into the bazaar and we got some cabobs and 
yaourt and salad, and various flaps of bread, and managed 
so far pretty well, and then we went to the port, and after 
much waste of time and breath I engaged a curious- 
looking boat belonging to a Turk, who by the by was the 
only Turkish sailor I ever had anything to do with, as the 
seamen are generally Greeks ; and then I returned to my 
house to sleep, for we were not to set out on our voyage 
till sunrise the next morning. The sleeping was a more 
difficult affair than the dinner, for after the beds at the 
embassy the boards did seem supernaturally hard ; but I 


spread all my property on the floor, and lying down on it 
flat on my back, out of compassion to my hips, I got 
through the night at last. 

All men were up and about in the Turkish town of Coom 
Calessi as soon as the sun tinged the hills of Olympus, and 
the gay boat in which I was to sail was bounding up and 
down on the bright transparent waves by the sandy shore. 
The long-bearded captain sat on a half deck with the tiller 
under his arm ; he neither moved nor said a word when I 
came on board, and before the god of day arose in his 
splendour over the famous plains of Troy, my little boat 
was spreading its white wings before the morning wind. 
Every moment more and more lovely scenes opened to my 
delighted eyes among the rocky and classic islands of the 
Archipelago. How fair and beautiful is every part of that 
most favoured land ! how fresh the breezes on that poetic 
sea ! how magnificent the great precipices of the rocky 
island of Samotraki seemed as they loomed through the 
decreasing distance in the morning sun ! But no words, 
no painting can .describe this glorious region. 

I had hired my grave sailors to take me to Lemnos, but 
the wind did not serve, so we steered for Imbros, where we 
arrived in the afternoon. My boat was an original-looking 
vessel to an English eye; with a high bow and stem 
covered with bright brass ; over the rudder there hung a 
long piece of net work ornamented with blue glass beads; 
flowers and arabesques were caned on the boards at each 
end of the vessel, which had one low mast with a single 
sail. It is the national belief in England that ugliness is 
the necessary concomitant of utility, but for my own part 


I confess that I delight in redundant ornament, and I liked 
my old boat the better and was convinced that it did 
not sail a bit the worse because it was pleasing to the 

We rowed away towards Imbros, and passed in our 
course a curious line of waves, which looked like a 
straight whirlpool, if such an epithet may be used ; for 
where the mighty stream of the Dardanelles poured forth 
into the Egean Sea, the two waters did not immediately 
mix together, but rolled the one over the other in a long 
line which seemed as if it would suck down into its snaky 
vortex anything which approached it. It was not danger, 
ous, however, for we rowed along it and across it ; but 
still it had a look about it which made me feel rather glad 
than sorry when we had lost sight of its long, straight, 
curling line of waves. 

As I sat in my beautifully-shaped and ornamented boat, 
which looked like those represented in antique sculptures, 
with its high stern and lofty prow, I thought how little 
changed things were in these lattiudes since the brave Capt. 
Jason passed this way in the good ship Argo ; and if an 
old author who wrote on the Hermetic philosophy may be 
taken as authority, that worthy's errand was much the 
same as mine ; for he maintains that the golden fleece was 
no golden fleece at all, " for who," says he, like a sensible 
man, " ever saw a sheep of gold V 9 But what Jason 
sought was a famous volume written in golden letters upon 
the skins of sheep, wherein was described the whole 
science of alchemy, and that the man who should possess 

himself of that inestimable volume should conquer the 


green dragon, and being able by help of the grand magis- 
terium to transmute all metals, and draw from the alembic 
the precious drops of the elixir vitee, men and nations and 
languages would bow down before him as the prince of the 
pleasures of this world. 

In the afternoon we arrived at the island of Imbros. 
The Turkish pilot would go no further, for he said there 
would be a storm. I saw no appearanee of the kind, but 
it was of no use talking to him ; he had made up his mind, 
so we drew the boat up on the sand in a little sheltered bay, 
and making a tent of the sail, the sailors lit a fire, and sat 
down and smoked their pipes with all that quietness and 
decorum which is so characteristic of their nation. I wan- 
dered about the island, but saw neither man nor habitation. 
I shot at divers rock-partridges with a rifle and hit none; 
nevertheless, towards evening we cooked up a savoury 
mess, whereof the old bearded Turk and his grave crew 
ate also, but sparingly : I then curled myself up in a cor- 
ner, inside the boat under the sail, and took to reading a 
volume of Sir Walter Scott's poems. 

I was deep in his romantic legends when of a sudden 
there came a roar of thunder and such quick bright flashes 
of sharp lightning that the mountains seemed on fire. 
Down came the rain in waterfalls, and in went Walter 
Scott and all his chivalry into the first safe hiding-place I 
could find. The crew had got under a projecting rock, 
and I had the boat to myself; the rain did not come 
in much, and the rattle of the thunder by degrees died 
away among the surrounding hills. The rain continued to 
Dour down steadily and the fire on the beach went out, but 


my berth was snug enough, and the dull monotonous 
sound of the splashing rain and the dashing of the breakers 
on the shore soon lulled me to sleep, and I was more 
comfortable than I had been the night before in the bare, 
empty house at Coom Calessi. 

Very early in the morning I peeped out ; the rain was 
gone and the sun shone brightly ; all the Turks were up 
smoking their eternal pipes, so I asked the old captain 
when we should be off. " There is too much wind," was 
his laconic reply. We were in a sheltered place, so we 
felt no wind, but on the other side of a rocky headland we 
could see the sea running like a cataract towards the 
south, although it was as smooth as glass in our bay. We 
got through breakfast, and for the sake of the partridges I 
repented that I had brought no shot. At last the men be- 
gan righting the boat and getting the things ready, doing 
everything as quietly and deliberately as usual, and 
scarcely saying a word to each other. In course of time 
the captain sat himself down by the rudder, and beckoning 
to me with his hand, he took the pipe out of his mouth and 
said " Gel " (come). I came, and away we went smoothly 
with the help of two or three oars till we rounded the 
rocky headland, and then all at once we drifted into the 
race, and began dancing and leaping, and staggering before 
the breeze in a way I never saw before nor since. Like 
the goats, from which this sea is said to have been named, 
we leaped from the summit of one wave to that of the next, 
and seemed hardly to touch the water. We had up a 
small sail, and we sat still and steady at the bottom of the 
vessel. Never had I conceived the possibility of a boat 

300 LEMNOS. Chap. XXIIL 

Bcampering along before the wind at such a rate as this. 
My man crossed himself.* I looked up at the old pilot, but 
he went on quietly smoking his pipe with his finger on the 
bowl to keep the ashes from being blown away. It was a 
marvel to me with what exactness he touched the helm 
just at the right instant, for it seemed as if we had sixty 
narrow escapes every minute, but the old man did not stir 
an inch. Gallantly we dashed, and skipped, and bounded 
along. What a famous lively little boat it was, yet it was 
carved and gilt and as pretty as anything could be ! We 
were soon running down the west coast of Lemnos, where 
the surf was lashing the precipice in fury with an angry 
roar that resounded far out to sea : then of a sudden 
we rounded a sharp point and shot into such smooth water 
so instantaneously that one could scarcely believe that the 
blue waves of the Holy Sea, Ayio* *sku,yo$, as the Greeks 
call it still, could be the same as the furious and frenzied 
ocean out of which we had darted like an arrow from 
a bow. 

We had a long row in the hot sun along the sheltered 
coast till we landed at a rotten wooden pier before the 
chief city or rather the dirty village of the Lemnians. 1 
had a letter to a gentleman who was sent by a merchant 
of Constantinople to collect wool upon this island ; so to 
him I bent my way, hooted at by some Lemnian women, 
the worthy descendants probably of those fair dames who 
have gained a disagreeable immortality by murdering 
their husbands. Here it was that Vulcan broke his leg, 
and no wonder, for a more barren, rocky place, no one 
jould have been kicked down into. My friend of the wool 


packs, who was a Frenchman, was very kind and civil, 
only he had nothing to offer me beyond a bare house, like 
the consul's Jew at the Dardanelles, so I walked about and 
looked at nothing, which was all there was to see, whilst 
my servant hired a little square-rigged brig to take me 
next day to Mount Athos. 

After dinner I made inquiries of my host what he had 
in the way of bed. His answer was specific. There 
was no bed, no mattress, no divan ; sheets were unknown 
things, and the wool he did not recommend. But at last 
I 'was told of a mattress which an old woman next door 
was possessed of, and which she sometimes let out to stran- 
gers ; and in an evil hour I sent for it. That treacherous 
bed and its clean white coverlet will never be forgotten by 
me. I laid down upon it and in one minute was fast 
asleep— the next I started up a perfect Marsyas. Never 
until that day had I any idea of what fleas could do. So 
simultaneous and well conducted was their attack that I 
was bitten all over from top to toe at the first assault. 
They evidently were delighted at the unexpected change 
of diet from a grim, skinny old woman to a well-fed tra- 
veller fresh from the table of the embassy. I examined 
the white coverlet — it was actually brown with fleas. I 
threw away my clothes, and taking desperate measures to 
get rid of some myriads of my assailants, I ran out of the 
room and put on a dressing-gown in the outer hall, at the 
window of which I sat down to cool the fever of my blood. 
I half expected to see the fleas open the door and march 
in after me, as the rats did after Bishop Hatto on his island 


in the Rhine ; but fortunately the villains did not venture 
to leave their mattress. There I sat, fanning myself in 
the night air and bathing my face and limbs in water till 
the sun rose, when with a doleful countenance I asked my 
way to a bath. I found one, and went into the hot inner 
room with nothing on but a towel round my waist and one 
on my head, as the custom is. There was no one else 
there, and when the bath man came in he started back 
with horror, for he thought I had got that most deadly kind 
of plague which breaks out in an eruption and carries off 
the patient in a few hours. When it was explained to 
him how I had fallen into the clutches of these Lemnian 
fleas, he proceeded to rub me and soap me according to 
the Turkish fashion, and wonderfully soothing and com- 
forting it was. 

As there was a rumour of pirates in these seas, the little 
brig would not sail till night, and I passed the day dozing 
in the shade out of doors ; when evening came I crept 
down to the port, went on board, and curled myself up in 
the hole of a cabin among ropes and sails, and went to 
sleep at once, and did not wake again till we arrived 
within a short distance of the most magnificent mountain 
imaginable, rising in a peak of white marble ten thousand 
feet straight out of the sea. It was a lovely fresh morn- 
ing, so I stood with half of my body out of the hatohway 
enjoying the glorious prospect, and making my toilette 
with the deck for a dressing-table, to the great admiration 
of the Greek crew, who were a perfect contrast to my 
former Turkish friends, for they did nothing but lounge 


about and chatter, and give orders to each other, every 
one of them appearing unwilling to do his own share of 
the work. 

We steered for a tall square tower which stood on a 
projecting marble rock above the calm blue sea at the S.E. 
corner of the peninsula ; and rounding a small cape we 
turned into a beautiful little port or harbour, the entrance 
of which was commanded by this tower and by one or two 
other buildings constructed for defence at the foot of it, all 
in the Byzantine style of architecture. The quaint half- 
Eastern, half-Norman architecture of the little fortress, 
my outlandish vessel, the brilliant colours of the sailors' 
dresses, the rich vegetation and great tufts of flowers which 
grew in crevices of the white marble, formed altogether 
one of the most picturesque scenes it was ever my good 
fortune to behold, and which I always remember with plea- 
sure. We saw no one, but about a mile off there was the 
great monastery of St. Laura standing above us among the 
trees on the side of the mountain, and this delightful little 
bay was, as the sailors told us, the scarricatojo or landing- 
place for pilgrims who were going to the monastery. 

We paid off the vessel, and my things were landed on 
the beach. It was not an operation of much labour, for 
my effects consisted principally of an enormous pair of 
saddle-bags, made of a sort of carpet, and which are called 
khourges, and are carried by the camels in Arabia ; but 
there was at present mighty little in them : nevertheless, 
light as they were, their appearance would have excited a 
feeling of consternation in the mind of the most phlegmatic 
mule. After a brisk chatter on the part of the whoto 


crew, who, with abundance of gesticulations, all talked at 
once, they got on board, and towing the vessel out by 
means of an exceeding small boat, set sail, and left me and 
my man and the saddle-bags high and dry upon the shore. 
We were somewhat taken by surprise at this sudden 
departure of our marine, so we sat upon two stones for a 
while to think about it. " Well," said I, " we are at 
Mount Athos ; so suppose you walk up to the monastery, 
and get some mules or monks, or something or other to 
carry up the saddle-bags. Tell them the celebrated 
Milordos Inglesis, the friend of the Universal Patriarch, is 
arrived, and that he kindly intends to visit their monastery ; 
and that he is a great ally of the Sultan's, and of all the 
captains of all the men of war that come down the Archi- 
pelago : and," added I, " make haste now, and let us be 
up at the monastery lest our friends in the brig there should 
take it into their heads to come back and cut our throats." 
Away he went, and I and the saddle-bags remained 
below. For some time I solaced myself by throwing 
stones into the water, and then I walked up the path to 
look about me, and found a red mulberry-tree with fine 
ripe mulberries on it, of which I ate a prodigious numbei 
in order to pass away the time. As I was studying the 
Byzantine tower, I thought I saw something peeping out 
of a loophole near the top of it, and, on looking more 
attentively, I saw it was the head of an old man with a 
long grey beard, who was gazing cautiously at me. I 
shouted out at the top of my voice, " Kalemera sas, ariste, 
kalemera sas (good day to you, sir) ; ora kali sas (good 
morning to you); rov (Fcwra/x*i/©£;" he answered in 


return, " Kaloa orizete ?" (how do you do ?) So I went 
up to the tower, passed over a plank that served as a draw- 
bridge across a chasm, and at the door of a wall which 
surrounded the lower buildings stood a little old monk, the 
same who had been peeping out of the loophole above. He 
took me into his castle, where he seemed to be living all 
alone in a Byzantine lean-to at the foot of the tower, the 
window of his room looking over the port beneath. This 
room had numerous pegs in the walls, on which were hung 
dried herbs and simples ; one or two great jars stood in 
the corner, and these and a small divan formed all his 
household furniture. We began to talk in Romaic, but I 
was not very strong in that language, and presently stuck 
fast. He showed me over the tower, which contained 
several groined vaulted rooms one above another, all 
empty. From the top there was a glorious view of the 
islands and the sea. Thought I to myself, this is a real, 
genuine, unsophisticated live hermit ; he is not stuffed like 
the hermit at Vauxhall, nor made up of beard and blankets 
like those on the stage ; he is a genuine specimen of an 
almost extinct race. What would not Walter Scott have 
given for him ? The aspect of my host and his Byzantine 
tower savoured so completely of the days of the twelfth 
century, that I seemed to have entered another world, and 
should hardly have been surprised if a crusader in chain- 
armour had entered the room and knelt down before the 
hermit's feet. The poor old hermit observing me looking 
about at all his goods and chattels, got up on his divan, and 
from a shelf reached down a large rosy apple, which he 
presented to me ; and it was evidently the best thing he 


had, and I was touched when he gave it to me. I took a 
great bite ; it was very sour indeed : but what was to be 
done ? I could not bear to vex the old man, so I went on 
eating a great deal of it, although it brought the tears into 
my eyes. 

We now heard a holloing and shouting, which portended 
the arrival of the mules, and, bidding adieu to the old her. 
mit of the tower, I mounted a mule ; the others were 
lightly loaded with my effects, and we scrambled up a 
steep rocky path through a thicket of odoriferous ever- 
green shrubs, our progress being assisted by the screams 
and bangs inflicted by several stout acolytes, a sort of lay- 
brethren, who came down with the animals from the 



Monastery of St. Laura — Kind Reception by the Abbot— Astonish- 
ment of the Monks — History of the Monastery — Rules of the 
Order of St. Basil— Description of the Buildings — Curious Pic- 
tures of the last judgment — Early Greek Paintings ; Richness of 
their Frames and Decorations — Ancient Church Plate — Beautiful 
Reliquary— The Refectory— The Abbot's Savoury Dish — The 
Library — The MSS. — Ride to the Monastery of Caracalla — 
Magnificent Scenery. 

We soon emerged upon a flat piece of ground, and there 
before us stood the great monastery of 


It appeared like an ancient fortress, surrounded with high 
blank walls, over the tops of which were seen numerous 
domes and pinnacles, and odd-shaped roofs and cypress- 
trees, all jumbled together. In some places one of those 
projecting windows, which are called shahneshin at Con- 
stantinople, stood out from the great encircling wall at a 
considerable height above the ground ; and in front of the 
entrance was a porch in the Byzantine etyle, 
consisting of four marble columns, supporting 
a dome ; in this porch stood the agoumenos, 
backed by a great many of the brethren. My 
servant had, doubtless, told him what an extra- 
ordinary great personage he was to expect, for he received 
me with great deference ; and after the usual bows and 
compliments the dark train of Greek monks filed in 
through the outer and two inner iron gates, in a sort of 

806 THE CHURCH. Chap. XXIV. 

procession, with which goodly company I proceeded to the 
church, which stood in the middle of the great court-yard. 
We went up to the screen of the altar, and there every- 
body made bows, and said " Kyrie eleison," which they 
repeated as quickly and in as high a key as they could. 
We then came out of the church, and the agoumenos, 
taking me by the hand, led me up divers dark wooden 
staircases, until we came into a large cheerful room well 
furnished in the Turkish style, and having one of the pro- 
jecting windows which I had seen from the outside. In 
this room, which the agoumenos told me I was to consider 
as my own, we had coffee. I then presented the letter of 
the patriarch ; he read it with great respect, and said I 
was welcome to remain in the monastery as long as I 
liked ; and after various compliments given and received 
he left me ; and I found myself comfortably installed in 
one of the grand — and, as yet, unexplored — monasteries 
of the famous sanctuary of Mount Athos : better known 
in the Levant by the appellation of Apiov Opo$, or, as the 
Italian hath it, Monte Santo. 

Before long I received visits from divers holy brethren, 
being those who held offices in the monastery under my 
lord the agoumenos, and there was no end to the civilities 
which passed between us. At last, they all departed, and 
towards evening I went out and walked about; those 
monks whom I met either opening their eyes and mouths, 
and standing still, or else bowing profoundly and going 
through the whole series of gesticulations which are prac- 
tised towards persons of superior rank ; for the poor monks 
never having seen a stranger before, or at least a Frank, did 


not know what to make of me, and according to-their various 
degrees of intellect treated me with respect or astonish, 
ment. But Greek monks are not so ill-mannered as an 
English mob, and therefore they did not run after me, but 
only stared and crossed themselves as the unknown animal 
passed by. 

I will now, from the information I received from the 
monks and my own observation, 'give the best account I 
can of this extensive and curious monastery. It was 
founded by an Emperor Nicephorus, but what particular 
Nicephorus he was nobody knew. Nicephorus the trea- 
surer, got into trouble with Charlemagne on one side, and 
Haroun al Raschid on the other, and was killed by the 
Bulgarians in 811. Nicephorus Phocas was a great cap- 
tain, a mighty man of valour ; who fought with every- 
body, and frightened the Caliph at the gates of Bagdad, 
but did good to no one ; and at length became so disagree- 
able that his wife had him murdered in 969. Nicephorus 
Botoniates, by the help of Alexius Comnenus, caught and 
put out the eyes of his rival Nicephorus Bryennius, whose 
son married that celebrated blue-stocking Anna Comnena. 
However, Nicephorus Botoniates having quarrelled with 
Alexius Comnenus, that great man kicked him out and 
reigned in his stead, and Botoniates took refuge in this 
monastery, which, as I make out, he had founded some 
time before. He came here about the year 1081, and 
took the vows of a kaloyeri, or Greek monk. 

Thi3 word kaloyeri means a good old man. All the 
monks of Mount Athos follow the rule of St. Basil : 



indeed, all Greek monks of this order. They are ascetics, 
and their discipline is most severe : they 

never eat meat, fish they have on feast- fcT^"" - '^ 

days ; but on fast-days, which are above 

a hundred in the year, they are not 

allowed any animal substance or even 

oil ; their prayers occupy eight hours in 

the day, and about two during the night, 

so that they never enjoy a real night's 

rest. They never sit down during 

prayer, but as the services are of extreme 

length they are allowed to rest their arms 

on the elbows of a sort of stalls without 

seats, which are found in all Greek 

churches, and at other times they lean 

on a crutch. A crutch of this kind of 

silver, richly ornamented, forms the pa- (| 

triarchal staff: it is called the patritza, warpni*. 

and answers to the crosier of the Roman bishops. Bells 

are not used to call the fraternity to prayers, but a long 

piece of board, suspended by two strings, is struck with a 

mallet. Sometimes instead of the wooden board a piece 

of iron, like part of the tire of a wheel, is used for this 

purpose. Bells are rung only on occasions of rejoicing, 

or to show respect to some great personage, and on the 

great feasts of the church. 

The accompanying sketches will explain the forms 
of the patriarchal staff, the board, and the iron bar. 




TOKftaxy a hammer, in Turkish. 


The latter are called in Romaic <fr}fj»av£pof, a word derived 
from tfqfuufoxrovjjuxi, to gather together. 

According to Johannes Comnenus, who visited Mount 
Athos in 1701, and whose works are quoted in Montfaucon, 
' Paleographia Grseca,' page 452, St. Laura was founded 
by Nicephorus Phocas, and restored by Neagulus, Way- 
wode of Bessarabia. The buildings consist of a thick 
and lofty wall of stone, which encompass an irregular 
space of ground of between three and four acres in 
extent; there is only one entrance, a crooked passage 
defended by three separate iron doors ; the front of the 
building on the side of the entrance extends about five 
hundred feet. There is no attempt at external architec- 
ture, but only this plain wall ; the few windows which 
look out from it belong to the rooms which are built of 
wood and project over the top of the wall, being supported 
upon strong beams like brackets. At the south-west 
corner of the building there is a large square tower, which 
formerly contained a printing-press : but this press was do. 


stroyed by the Turkish soldiers during the late Greek 
revolution ; and at the same time they carried off certain 
old cannons which stood upon the battlements, but which 
were more for show than use, for the monks had never 
once ventured to fire them off during the long period they 
had been there ; and my question, as to when they were 
brought there originally, was answered by the universal 
and regular answer of the Levant, " « ege/3^0 — Qui sa ? — 
Who knows?" The interior of the monastery consists 
of several small courts and two large open spaces sur- 
rounded with buildings, which have open galleries of 
wood or stone before them, by means of which entrance 
is gained into the various apartments, which now afford 
lodging for one hundred and twenty monks, and there is 
room for many more. These two large courts are built 
without any regularity, but their architecture is exceed- 
ingly curious, and in its style closely resembles the 
buildings erected in Constantinople between the fifth and 
the twelfth century : a sort of Byzantine, in which St. 
Marc's in Venice is the finest specimen in Europe. It 
bears some affinity to the Lombardic or Romanesque, only 
it is more Oriental in its style ; the chapel of the ancient 
palace of Palermo is more in the style of the buildings on 
Mount Athos than anything else in Christendom that I 
remember ; but the ceilings of that chapel are regularly 
arabesque, whereas those on Mount Athos are flat with 
painted beams, like the Italian basilicas, excepting where 
they are arched or domed ; and in those cases there is 
little or no mosaic, but only coarse paintings in fresco 


representing saints in the conventional Greek style of 
superlative ugliness. 

In the centre of each of these two large courts stands 
a church of moderate size, each of which has a porch 
with thin marble columns before the door ; the interior 
walls of the porches are covered with paintings of saints 
and also of the Last Judgment, which, indeed, is con- 
stantly seen in the porch of every church. In these 
pictures, which are often of immense size, the artists 
evidently took much more pains to represent the uncouth- 
ness of the devils than the beauty of the angels, who, in 
all these ancient frescos, are a very hard-favoured set 
The chief devil is very big ; he is the hero of the scene, 
and is always marvellously hideous, with a great mouth 
and long teeth, with which he is usually gnawing two or 
three sinners, who, to judge from the expression of his 
face, must be very nauseous articles of food. He stands 
up to his middle in a red pool which is intended for fire, 
and wherein numerous little sinners are disporting them- 
selves like fish in all sorts of attitudes, but without looking 
at all alarmed or unhappy. On one side of the picture 
an angel is weighing a few in a pair of scales, and others 
are capering about in company with some smaller devils, 
who evidently lead a merry life of it. The souls of the 
blessed are seated in a row on a long hard bench very 
high up in the picture ; these are all old men with beards ; 
some are covered with hair, others richly clothed, ancho- 
rites and princes being the only persons elevated to the 
bench. They have good stout glories round their heads, 
which in rich churches are gilt, and in the poorer ones 


are painted yellow, and look like large straw hats. These 
personages are severe and grim of countenance, and look 
by no means comfortable or at home ; they each hold a 
large book, and give you the idea that except for the 
honour of the thing they would be much happier in com- 
pany with the wicked little sinners and merry imps in the 
crimson lake below. This picture of the Last Judgment 
is as much conventional as the portraits of the saints ; it 
is almost always the same, and a correct representation 
of a part of it is to be seen in the last print of the rare 
volume of the Monte Santo di Dio, which contains the 
three earliest engravings known : it would almost appear 
that the print must have been copied from one of these an- 
cient Greek frescos. It is difficult to conceive how any 
one, even in the dark ages, can have been simple enough to 
look upon these quaint and absurd paintings with feelings 
of religious awe ; but some of the monks of the Holy- 
Mountain do so even now, and were evidently scandalized 
when they saw me smile. This is, however, only one 
of the numberless instances in which, owing to the differ- 
ences of education and circumstances, men look upon 
the same thing with awe or pity, with ridicule or venera- 

* Ridiculous as these pictorial representations of the Last Judg- 
ment appear to us, one of them was the cause of a whole nation's 
embracing Christianity. Bogoris, king of Bulgaria, having written 
to Constantinople for a painter to decorate the walls of his palace, 
a monk named Methodius was sent to him—- all knowledge of the 
arts in those days being confined to the clergy. The king desired 
Methodius to paint on a certain wall the most terrible picture that 
lie could imagine ; and by the advice of the king's sister, who had 
embraced Christianity some years before whilst in captivity at 


The interior of the principal church in this monastery 
is interesting from the number of early Greek pictures 
which it contains, and which are hung on the walls of the 
apsis behind the altar. They are almost all in silver 
frames, and are painted on wood ; most of them are small, 
being not more than one or two feet square ; the back- 
ground of all of them is gilt ; and in many of them this 
back-ground is formed of plates of silver or gold. One 
small painting is ascribed to St. Luke, and several have 
the frames set with jewels, and are of great antiquity. In 
front of the altar, and suspended from the two columns 
nearest to the ixovotfroufig — the screen which, like the veil 
of the temple, conceals the holy of holies from the gaze of 
the profane — are two pictures larger than the rest: the 
one represents our Saviour, the other the Blessed Virgin. 
Except the faces they are entirely covered over with 
plates of silver-gilt ; and the whole of both pictures, as 
well as their frames, is richly ornamented with a kind of 
coarse golden filigree, set with large turquoises, agates, 
and cornelians. These very curious productions of early 
art were presented to the monastery by the Emperor 
Andronicus Paleologus, whose portrait, with that of his 
Empress, is represented on the silver frame. 

Constantinople, the monastic artist produced so fearful a represen- 
tation of the torments of the condemned in the next world, that 
it had the effect of converting Bogoris to the Christian faith. In 
consequence of this event the Patriarch of Constantinople de- 
spatched a bishop to Bulgaria, who baptized the king by the name 
of Michael in the year 865. Before long his loyal subjects, follow- 
ing the example of their sovereign, were converted also ; and 
Christianity from that period became the religion of the land. 


The floor of this church, and of the one which stands in 
the centre of the other court, is paved with rich coloured 
marbles. The relics are preserved in that division of the 
church which is behind the altar ; their number and 
value is much less than formerly, as during the revo- 
lution, when the Holy Mountain was under the rule of 
Aboulabout Pasha, he squeezed all he could out of the 
monks of this and all the other monasteries. However, 
as no Turk is a match for a Greek, they managed to 
preserve a great deal of ancient church plate, some of 
which dates as far back as the days of the Roman 
emperors, for few of the Christian successors of Con- 
stantine failed to offer some little bribe to the saints 
in order to obtain pardon for the desperate manner in 
which they passed their lives. Some of these pieces 
of plate are well worthy the attention of antiquarians, 
being probably the most ancient specimens of art in 
goldsmith's work now extant ; and as they have remained 
in the several monasteries ever since the piety of their 
donors first sent them there, their authenticity cannot be 
questioned, besides which many of them are extremely 
magnificent and beautiful. 

The most valuable reliquary of St. Laura is a kind o r 
triptic, about eighteen inches high, of pure gold, a present 
from the Emperor Nicephorus, the founder of the abbey. 
The front represents a pair of folding-doors, each set with 
a double row of diamonds (the most ancient specimens ot 
this stone that I have seen), emeralds, pearls, and rubies 
as large as sixpences. When the doors are opened 
a large piece of the holy cross, splendidly set with 


jewels, is displayed in the centre, and the insides of 
the two doors and the whole surface of the reliquary 
are covered with engraved figures of the saints stuck 
full of precious stones. This beautiful shrine is of 
Byzantine workmanship, and, in its way, is a superb 
work of art. 

The refectory of the monastery is a large square build- 
ing, but the dining-room which it contains is in the form 
of a cross, about one hundred feet in length each way ; 
the walls are decorated with fresco pictures of the 
saints, who vie with each other in the hard-favoured 
aspect of their bearded faces ; they are tall and meagre 
full-length figures as large as life, each having his 
name inscribed on the -picture. Their chief interest is 
in their accurate representation of the clerical costume. 
The dining-tables, twenty-four in number, are so many 
solid blocks of masonry, with heavy slabs of marble 
on the top ; they are nearly semicircular in shape, with 
the flat side away from the wall ; a wide marble bench 
runs round the circular part of them 
in this form. A row of these tables 
extend down each side of the hall, 
and at the upper end in a semicir- 
cular recess is a high table for the 
superior, who only dines here on great occasions. The 
refectory being square on the outside, the intermediate 
spaces between the arms of the cross are occupied by 
the bakehouse, and the wine, oil, and spirit cellars ; for 
although the monks eat no meat, they drink famously ; 
and the good St. Basil having flourished long before 



the age of Paracelsus, inserted nothing in his rules 
against the use of ardent spirits, whereof the monks 
imbibe u considerable quantity, chiefly bad arrack; 
but it does not seem to do them any harm, and I never 
heard of their overstepping the bounds of sobriety. 
Besides the two churches in the great courts, which 
are shaded by ancient cypresses, there are twenty 
smaller chapels, distributed over different parts of the 
monastery, in which prayers are said on certain days. 
The monks are now in a more flourishing condition 
than they have been for some years; and as they trust 
to the continuance of peace and order in the dominions of 
the Sultan, they are beginning to repair the injuries they 
suffered during the revolution, and there is altogether 
an air of improvement and opulence throughout the 

I wandered over the courts and galleries and 
chapels of this immense building in every direction, 
asking questions respecting those things which I did 
not understand, and receiving the kindest and most 
civil attention from every one. In front of the door 
of the largest church a dome, curiously painted and gilt 
in the interior, and supported by four columns, protects a 
fine marble vase ten feet in diameter, with a fountain 
in it; in this magnificent basin the holy water is 
consecrated with great ceremony on the feast of the 

• In the early ages of the Greek church the Epiphany was a day 
of very great solemnity; for not only was the adoration of the 
Magi celebrated on the 6th of January, but also the changing of 



I was informed that no female animal of any sort 01 
kind is admitted on any part of the peninsula of Mount 
Athos ; and that since the days of Constantine the soil ot 
the Holy Mountain had never been contaminated by the 
tread of a woman's foot. That this rigid law is infringed 
by certain small and active creatures who have the auda- 
city to bring their wives and large families within the very 
precincts of the monastery I soon discovered to my sorrow, 
and heartily regretted that the stern monastic law was not 
more rigidly enforced ; nevertheless, I slept well on 
my divan, and the next morning at sunrise received 
a visit from the* agoumenos, who came to wish me good 
day. After some conversation on other matters, I inquired 
about the library, and asked permission to view its 
contents- The agoumenos declared his willingness to 
show me everything that the monastery contained. " But 
first," said he, " I wish to present you with something 
excellent for your breakfast; and from the special good 
will that I bear towards so distinguished a guest I shall 
prepare it with my own hands, and will stay to see you eat 
it ; for it is really an admirable dish, and one not present- 
ed to all persons." " Well," thought I, " a good break- 
fast is not a bad thing ;" and the fresh mountain-air and 
the good night's rest had given me an appetite ; so I 
expressed my thanks for the kind hospitality of ray lord 
abbot, and he, sitting down opposite to me on the divan, 

the water into wine at the marriage at Cana, the baptism, and 
even the birth of our Lord. On this day the holy water is blessed 
in the Greek church, by throwing a small cross into it, or other- 
wise by holding over it the cross, with a handle attached to it, 
Which is used by the Greek clergy in the act of benediction. 


proceeded to prepare his dish. " This," said he, pro- 
ducing a shallow basin half full of a white paste, " is the 
principal and most savoury part of this famous dish ; it is 
composed of cloves of garlic, pounded down, with a certain 
quantity of sugar. With it I will now mix the oil in just 
proportions, some shreds of fine cheese [it seemed to be of 
the white acid kind, which resembles what is called caccia 
cavallo in the south of Italy, and which almost takes the 
skin off your fingers, I believe] and sundry other nice little 
condiments, and now it is completed I" He stirred the 
savoury mess round and round with a large wooden spoon 
until it sent forth over room and passage and cell, over hill 
and valley, an aroma which is not to be described. 
" Now," said the agoumenos, crumbling some bread into it 
with his large and somewhat dirty hands, " this is a dish 
for an emperor ! Eat, my friend, my much- respected 
guest ; do not be shy. Eat ; and when you have finished 
this bowl you shall go into the library and anywhere else 
you like ; but you shall go nowhere till I have had the 
pleasure of seeing you do justice to this delicious fbod, 
which, 1 can assure you, you will not meet with every- 

I was sorely troubled in spirit. Who could have 
expected so dreadful a martyrdom as this? The sour 
apple of the hermit down below us was nothing — a trifle 
in comparison ! Was ever an unfortunate bibliomaniac 
dosed with such a medicine before ? It would have been 
enough to have cured the whole Roxburgh Club from med- 
dling with libraries and books for ever and ever. I made 
every endeavour to escape this honour. "My Lord," 


said I, " it is a fast ; I cannot this morning do justice to this 
delicious viand; it is a fast; I am under a vow. Englishmen 
must not eat that dish in this month. It would be wrong ; 
my conscience won't permit it, though the odour certainly 
is most wonderful ! Truly an astonishing savour ! Let 
me see you eat it, O agoumenos !" continued 1 ; " for behold, 
I am unworthy of anything so good." " Excellent and 
virtuous young man !" said the agoumenos, " no, I will not 
eat it. I will not deprive you of this treat. Eat it in 
peace ; for know, that to travellers all such vows are set 
aside. On a journey it is permitted to eat all that is 
set before you, unless it is meat that is offered to idols. I 
admire your scruples ; but be not afraid, it is lawful* 
Take it, my honoured friend, and eat it ; eat it all, and 
then we will go into the library." He put the bowl into 
one of my hands and the great wooden spoon into the 
other : and in desperation I took a gulp, the recollection 
of which still makes me tremble. What was to be done ? 
Another mouthful was an impossibility : not all my ardour 
in the pursuit of manuscripts could give me the necessary 
courage. I was overcome with sorrow and despair. My 
servant saved me at last : he said " that English gentle- 
men never ate such rich dishes for breakfast, from 
religious feelings he believed; but he requested that 
it might be put by, and he was sure I should like it very 
much later in the day." The agoumenos looked vexed, 
but he applauded my principles ; and just then the board 
sounded for church. " I must be off. excellent and worthy 
English lord," said he ; "I will take you to the library, 
and leave you the key. Excuse my attendance on you 


there, for my presence is required in the church. " So I 
got off better than I expected ; but the taste of that ladle- 
ful stuck to me for days. I followed the good agoumenos 
to the library, where he left me to my own devices. 

The library is contained in two small rooms looking into 
a narrow court, which is situated to the left of the great 
court of entrance. One room leads to the other, and the 
books are disposed on shelves in tolerable order, but the 
dust on their venerable heads had not been disturbed for 
many years, and it took me some time to make out what 
they were, for in old Greek libraries few volumes have any 
title written on their back. I made out that there were in 
all about five thousand volumes, a very large collection, 
of which about four thousand were printed books ; these 
were mostly divinity, but among them there were several 
fine Aldine classics and the editio princeps of the Antho- 
logia in capital letters. 

The nine hundred manuscripts consisted of six hundred 
volumes written upon paper and three hundred on vellum. 
With the exception of four volumes, the former were all 
divinity, principally liturgies and books of prayer. Those 
four volumes were Homer's ' Iliad* and Hesiod, neither of 
which were very old, and two curious and rather early 
manuscripts on botany, full of rudely drawn figures of 
herbs. These were probably the works of Dioscorides ; 
they were not in good condition, having been much studied 
by the monks in former days : they were large, thick 
quartos. Among the three hundred manuscripts on vellum 
there were many large folios of the works of St. Chrysos- 
tom and other Greek fathers of the church of the eleventh 


and twelfth centuries, and about fifty copies of the Gospels 
and the Evangelistarium of nearly the same age. One 
Evangelistarium was in fine uncial letters of the ninth 
century ; it was a thick quarto, and on the first leaf 
was an illumination the whole size of the page on a gold 
background, representing the donor of the book accompa- 
nied by his wife. This ancient portrait was covered over 
with a piece of gauze. It was a very remarkable manu- 
script. There were one quarto and one duodecimo of the 
Acts, Epistles, and Apocalypse of the eleventh century, 
and one folio of the book of Job, which had several minia- 
tures in it badly executed in brilliant colors ; this was 
probably of the twelfth century. These three manuscripts 
were such volumes as are not often seen in European 
libraries. All the rest were anthologia and books of 
prayer, nor did I meet with one single leaf of a classic 
author on vellum. I went into the library several times, 
and looked over all the vellum manuscripts very carefully, 
and I believe that I did not pass by unnoticed anything 
which was particularly interesting in point of subject, 
antiquity, or illumination. Several of the copies of the 
Gospels had their titles ornamented with arabesques, but 
none struck me as being peculiarly valuable. 

The twenty-one monasteries of Mount Athos are sub- 
jected to different regulations. In some the property is 
at the absolute disposal of the agoumenos for the time 
being, but in the larger establishments (and St. Laura is 
the second in point of consequence) everything belongs to 
the monks in common. Such being the case, it was hope- 
less to expect, in so large a community, that the brethren 


should agree to part with any of their valuables* Indeed, 
as soon as I found out how affairs stood within the walls 
of St. Laura, I did not attempt to purchase anything, as it 
was not advisable to excite the curiosity of the monks 
upon the subject ; nor did I wish that the report should be 
circulated in the other convents that I was come to Mount 
Athos for the purpose of rifling their libraries. 

f remained at St. Laura three days, and on a beautiful 
fresh morning, being provided by the monks with mules 
and a guide, I left the good agoumenos and sallied forth 
through the three iron gates on my way to the monastery 
of Caracalla. Our road lay through some of the most 
beautiful scenery imaginable. The dark blue sea was on 
my right at about two miles distance ; the rocky path over 
which I passed was of white alabaster with brown and 
yellow veins; odoriferous evergreen shrubs were all 
around me ; and on my left were the lofty hills covered 
with a dense forest of gigantic trees, which extended to 
the base of the great white marble peak of the mountain. 
Between our path and the sea there was a succession of 
narrow valleys and gorges, each one more picturesque 
than the other ; sometimes we were enclosed by high and 
dense bushes ; sometimes we opened upon forest glades, 
and every here and there we came upon long and narrow 
ledges of rock. On one of the narrowest and loftiest of 
these, as I was trotting merrily along thinking of nothing 
but the beauty of the hour and the scene, my mule stopped 
short in a place where the path was about a foot wide, and % 
standing upon three legs, proceeded deliberately to scratch 
his nose with the fourth. I was too old a mountain tra- 


veller to have old of the bridle, which was safely belayed 
to the pack-saddle; I sat still for fear of making him 
lose his balance, and waited in very considerable trepida- 
tion until the mule had done scratching his nose. I was 
at the time half inclined to think that he knew he had a 
heretic upon his back, and had made up his mind to send 
me and himself smashing down among the distant rocks. 
If so, however, he thought better of it, and before long, to 
my great contentment, we came to a place where the road 
had two sides to it instead of one, and after a ride of five 
hours we arrived before the tall square tower which 
frowns over the gateway of the monastery of Caracalla. 



The Monastery of Caracalla — Its beautiful Situation — Hospitable 
Reception — Description of the Monastery — Legend of its Foun- 
dation—The Church — Fine Specimens of Ancient Jewellery — 
The Library — The Value attached to the Books by the Abbot — 
He agrees to sell some of the MSS. — Monastery of Philotheo — 
The Great Monastery of Iveron — History of its Foundation — Its 
Magnificent Library — Ignorance of the Monks — Superb MSS. — 
The Monks refuse to part with any of the MSS. — Beauty of the 
Scenery of Mount Athos. 

The monastery of Caracalla is not so large as St. Laura, 
and in many points resembles an ancient Gothic castle. It 
is beautifully situated on a promontory of rock two miles 
from the sea, and viewed from the lofty ground by which 
we approached it, the buildings had a most striking effect, 
with the dark blue sea for a background and the lofty rock 
of Samotraki looming in the distance, whilst the still more 
remote mountains of Roumelia closed in the picture. As 
for the island of Samotraki, it must have been created 
solely for the benefit of artists and admirers of the pictu- 
resque, for it is fit for nothing else. It is high and barren, 
a congeries of gigantic precipices and ridges. I suppose 
one can land upon it somewhere, for people live on it who 
are said to be arrant pirates ; but as one passes by it at 
sea, its interminable ribs of grey rock, with the waves 
lashing against them, are dreary-looking in the extreme ; 
and it is only when far distant that it becomes a beautiful 

I sent in my servant as ambassador to explain that tho 


first cousin, once removed, of the Emperor of all the 
Franks was at the gate, and to show the letter of the 
Greek patriarch. Incontinently the agoumenos made his 
appearance at the porch with many expressions of wel- 
come and goodwill. I believe it was longer than the days 
of his life since a Frank had entered the convent, and I 
doubt whether he had ever seen one before, for he looked 
so disappointed when he found that I had no tail or horns, 
and barring his glorious long beard, that I was so little differ- 
ent from himself. We made many speeches to each other, 
he in heathen Greek and I in English, seasoned with innu- 
merable bows, gesticulations, and temenahs ; after which 
I jumped off my mule and we entered the precincts of the 
monastery, attended by a long train of bearded fathers 
who came out to stare at me. 

The monastery of Caracalla covers about one acre of 
ground ; it is surrounded with a high strong wall, over 
which appear roofs and domes ; and on the left of the great 
square tower, near the gate, a range of rooms, built of 
wood, project over the battlements as at the monastery of 
St. Laura. Within is a large irregular court-yard, in the 
centre of which stands the church, and several little 
chapels or rooms fitted up as places of worship are scat- 
tered about in different parts of the building among the 
chambers inhabited by the monks. I found that this was 
the uniform arrangement in all the monasteries of Mount 
Athos, and in nearly all Greek monasteries in the Levant. 
This monastery was founded by Caracallos, a Roman: 
who he was, or when he lived, I do not know ; but from 


its appearance this must be a very ancient establishment. 
By Roman, perhaps, is meant Greek, for Greece is called 
Roumeli to this day ; and the Constantinopolitans called 
themselves Romans in the old time, as in Persia and Koor- 
distan the Sultan is called Roomi Padischah, the Roman 
Emperor, by those whose education and general attain- 
ments enable them to make mention of so distant and mys- 
terious a potentate. Afterwards Petrus, Authentes or 
Waywode of Moldavia, sent his protospaithaire, that is his 
chief swordsman or commander-in-chief, to found a monas- 
tery on the Holy Mountain, and supplied him with a sum 
of money for the purpose ; but the chief swordsman, after 
expending a very trivial portion of it in building a small 
tower on the sea-shore, pocketed the rest and returned to 
court. The waywode having found out what he had been 
at, ordered his head to be cut off; but he prayed so ear- 
nestly to be allowed to keep his head and rebuild the monas- 
tery of Caracalla out of his own money, that his master 
consented. The new church was dedicated to St. Peter 
and St. Paul, and ultimately the ex-chief swordsman pre- 
vailed Upon the waywode to come to Caracalla and take 
the vows. They both assumed the same name of Pacho- 
mius, and died in the odour of sanctity. All this, and 
many more legends was I told by the worthy agoumenos, 
who was altogether a most excellent person ; but he had 
an unfortunate habit of selecting the most windy places for 
detailing them, an open archway, the top of an external 
staircase, or the parapet of a tower, until at last he chilled 
my curiosity down to zero. In all his words and acts he 

Chap. XXV. THE LIBRARY. 329 

constantly referred to brother Joasaph, the second in com- 
mand, to whose superior wisdom he always seemed to 
bow, and who was quite the right-hand man of the abbot. 

My friend first took me to the church, which is of mode- 
rate size, the walls ornamented with stiff fresco pictures 
of the saints, none of them certainly later than the twelfth 
century, and some probably very much earlier. There 
were some relics, but the silver shrines containing them 
were not remarkable for richness or antiquity. On the • 
altar there were two very remarkable crosses, each of them 
about six or eight inches long, of carved wood set in gold 
and jewels of very early and beautiful workmanship ; one 
of them in particular, which was presented to the church 
by the Emperor John Zimisces, was a most curious spe- 
cimen of ancient jewellery. 

This monastery is one of those over which the agoume- 
nos has absolute control, and he was then repairing one 
side of the court and rebuilding a set of rooms which had 
been destroyed during the Greek war. 

The library I found to be a dark closet near the 
entrance of the church ; it had been locked up for 
many years, but the agoumenos made no difficulty in 
breaking the old-fashioned padlock by which the door 
was fastened. I found upon the ground and upon some 
broken-down shelves about four or five hundred volumes, 
chiefly printed books; but amongst them, every now 
and then, I stumbled upon a manuscript: of these 
there were about thirty on vellum and fifty or sixty on 
paper. I picked up a single loose leaf of very ancient 


uncial Greek characters, part of the Gospel of St. 
Matthew, written in small square letters and of small 
quarto size. I searched in vain for the volume to which 
this leaf belonged. 

As I had found it impossible to purchase any 
manuscripts at St. Laura, I feared that the same 
would be the case in other monasteries ; however, I 
made bold to ask for this single leaf as a thing of 
small value. 

" Certainly !" said the agoumenos, " what do you 
want it for ?" 

My servant suggested that, perhaps, it might be useful 
to cover some jam pots or vases of preserves which 
I had at home. 

" Oh !" said the agoumenos, " take some* more ;" 
and, without more ado, he seized upon an unfortunate 
thick quarto manuscript of the Acts and Epistles, and 
drawing out a knife cut out an inch thickness of leaves 
at the end before I could stop him. It proved to be 
the Apocalypse, which concluded the volume, but 
which is rarely found in early Greek manuscripts of 
the Acts: it was of the eleventh century. I ought, 
perhaps, to have slain the tomecide for his dreadful 
act of profanation, but his generosity reconciled me 
to his guilt, so I pocketed the Apocalypse, and asked 
him if he would sell me any of the other books, as 
he did not appear to set any particular value upon 

" Malista, certainly," he replied ; " how many will you 


have ? They are of no use to me, and as I am in want of 
money to complete my buildings I shall be very glad to 
turn them to some account." 

After a good deal of conversation, finding the agou- 
menos so accommodating, and so desirous to part with the 
contents of the dark and dusty closet, I arranged that I 
would leave him for the present, and after I had made the 
tour of the other monasteries, would return to Caracalla, 
and take up my abode there until I could hire a vessel, or 
make some other arrangement for my return to Con- 
stantinople. Satisfactory as this arrangement was, I 
nevertheless resolved to make sure of what 1 had already 
got, so I packed them up carefully in the great saddlebags, 
to my extreme delight. The agoumenos kindly furnished 
me with fresh mules, and in the afternoon I proceeded to 
the monastery of 


which is only an hour's ride from Caracalla, and stands in 
a little field surrounded by the forest. It is distant from 
the sea about four miles, and is protected, like all the 
others, by a high stone wall surrounding the whole of the 
building. The church is curious and interesting ; it is 
ornamented with representations of saints, and holy men 
in fresco, upon the walls of the interior and in the porch. 
I could not make out when it was built, but probably 
before the twelfth century. Arsenius, Philotheus, and 
Dionysius were the founders, but who they were did not 
appear. The monastery was repaired, and the refectory 
enlarged and painted, in the year 1492, by Leontius, • 


fioutiksvg Ka^enou, and his son Alexander. I was shown 
the reliquaries, but they were not remarkable. The 
monks said they had no library ; and there being 
nothing of interest in the monastery, I determined to go 
on. Indeed the expression of the faces of some of these 
monks was so unprepossessing, and their manners so rude, 
although not absolutely uncivil, that I did not feel any 
particular inclination to remain amongst them, so leaving 
a small donation for the church, I mounted my mule and 
proceeded on my journey. 

In half an hour I came to a beautiful waterfall in a 
rocky glen embosomed in trees and odoriferous shrubs, 
the rocks being of white marble, and the flowers such as 
we cherish in greenhouses in England. I do not know 
that I ever saw a more charmingly romantic spot. Ano- 
ther hour brought us to the great monastery of 

(the Georgian, or Iberian, Monastery.) 

This monastic establishment is of great size. It is 
larger than St. Laura, and might almost be denominated 
a small fortified town, so numerous are the buildings and 
courts which are contained within its encircling wall. It 
is situated near the sea, and in its general form is 
nearly square, with four or five square towers project- 
ing from the walls. On each of the four sides there 
are rooms for above two hundred monks. 1 did not 
learn precisely how many were then inhabiting it, 
but I should imagine there were above a hundred. As, 


however, many of the members of all the religious com- 
munities on Mount Athos are employed in cultivating the 
numerous farms which they possess, it is probable that 
not more than one-half of the monks are in residence at 
any one time. 

This monastery was founded by Theophania (Theo- 
dora ?,), wife of the Emperor Romanus, the son of Leo 
Sophos,* or the Philosopher, between the years 919 and 
922. It was restored by a Prince of Georgia or Iberia, 
and enlarged by his son, a caloyer. The church is 
dedicated to the "repose of the Virgin." It has four 
or five domes, and is of considerable size, standing by 
itself, as usual, in the centre of the great court, and is 
ornamented with columns and other decorations of rich 
marbles, together with the usual fresco paintings on the 

The library is a remarkably fine one, perhaps altogether 
the most precious of all those which now remain on the 
holy mountain. It is situated over the porch of the church, 
which appears to be the usual place where the books are 
kept in these establishments. The room is of good size, 
well fitted up with bookcases with glass doors, of not very 
old workmanship. I should imagine that about a hundred 
years ago, some agoumenos, or prior, or librarian, must 
have been a reading man ; and the pious care which he 
took to arrange the ancient volumes of the monastery has 
been rewarded by the excellent state of preservation 

• The Emperor Leo the First was crowned by the Patriarch of 
Anatolia in the year 459. He is the first prince on record who 
received his crown from the hands of a bishop. 


in which they still remain. Since his time they have 
probably remained undisturbed. Every one could see 
through the greenish uneven panes of old glass that there 
was nothing but books inside, and therefore nobody 
meddled with them. I was allowed to rummage at my 
leisure in this mine of archaeological treasure. Having 
taken up my abode for the time being in a cheerful room, 
the windows of which commanded a glorious prospect, I 
soon made friends with the literary portion of the commu- 
nity, which consisted of one thin old monk, a cleverish 
man, who united to many other offices that of librarian. 
He was also secretary to my lord the agoumenos, a kind- 
hearted old gentleman, who seemed -to wish everybody 
well, and who evidently liked much better to sit still 
on his divan than to regulate the affairs of his convent. 
The rents, the long lists of tuns of wine and oil, the strings 
of mules laden with corn, which came in daily from the 
farms, and all the other complicated details of this mighty 
ccenobium— over all these, and numberless other important 
matters, the thin secretary had full control. 

Some of the young monks, demure fat youths, came into 
the library every now and then, and wondered what I 
could be doing there, looking over so many books ; and 
they would take a volume out of my hand when I had done 
with it, and glancing their eyes over its ancient vellum 
leaves, would look up inquiringly into my face, saying, 
" n svs ? — what is it ? — what can be the use of looking at 
such old books as these ?'' They were rather in awe of 
the Secretary, who was evidently, in their opinion, a pro- 
digy of learning and erudition. Some, in a low voice, 


that they might not be overheard by the wise man, asked 
me where I came from, how old I was, and whether my 
father was with me ; but they soon all went away, and T 
turned to, in right good earnest, to look for uncial manu- 
scripts and unknown classic authors. Of these last there 
was not one on vellum, but on paper there was an octavo 
manuscript of Sophocles, and a Coptic Psaltery with an 
Arabic translation — a curious book to meet with on Mount 
Athos. Of printed books there were, I should think, 
about five thousand — of manuscripts on paper, about two 
thousand ; but all religious works of various kinds. 
There were nearly a thousand manuscripts on vellum, and 
these I looked over more carefully than the rest. About 
one hundred of them were in the Iberian language : they 
were mostly immense thick quartos, some of them not less 
man eighteen inches square, and from four to six inches 
thick. One of these, bound in wooden boards, and written 
in large uncial letters, was a magnificent old volume. 
Indeed all these Iberian or Georgian manuscripts were 
superb specimens of ancient books. I was unable to read 
them, and therefore cannot say what they were ; but I 
should imagine that they were church books, and probably 
of high antiquity. Among the Greek manuscripts, which 
were principally of the eleventh and twelfth centuries — 
works of St. Chrysostom, St.. Basil, and books for the ser- 
vices of the ritual — I discovered the following, which are 
deserving of especial mention : — A large folio Evangelista- 
rium bound in red velvet, about eighteen inches high and 
three thick, written in magnificent uncial letters half an 
inch long, or even more. Three of the illuminations were 


the whole size of the page, and might almost be termed 
pictures from their large proportions; and there were 
several other illuminations of smaller size in different 
parts of the book. This superb manuscript was in admi- 
rable preservation, and as clean as if it had been new. It 
had evidently been kept with great care, and appeared to 
have had some clasps or ornaments of gold or silver which 
had been torn off. It was probablj owing to the original 
splendour of this binding that the volume itself had been so 
carefully preserved. I imagine it was written in the ninth 

Another book, of a much greater age, was a copy of the 
four Gospels, with four finely-executed miniatures of the 
evangelists. It was about nine or ten inches square, 
written in round semiuncial letters in double columns, 
with not more than two or three words in a line. In some 
respects it resembled the book of the Epistles in the 
Bodleian Library at Oxford. This manuscript, in the 
original black leather binding, had every appearance 
of the highest antiquity. It was beautifully written and 
very clean, and was altogether such a volume as is not to 
be met with every day. 

A quarto manuscript of the lour Gospels, of the 
eleventh or twelfth century, with a great many (perhaps 
fifty) illuminations. Some of them were unfortunately 
rather damaged. 

Two manuscripts of the New Testament, with the 


A very fine manuscript of the Psalms, of the eleventn 
century, which is indeed about the era of the greater 
portion of the vellum manuscripts on Mount Athos. 

There were also some ponderous and magnificent folios 
of the works of the fathers of the Church — some of them, 
I should think, of the tenth century ; but it is difficult, in 
a few hours, to detect the peculiarities which prove that 
manuscripts are of an earlier date than the twelfth cen- 
tury. I am, however, convinced that very few of them 
were written after that time. 

The paper manuscripts were of all ages, from the thir- 
teenth and fifteenth centuries down to a hundred years 
ago ; and some of them, on charta bombycina, would have 
appeared very splendid books if they had not been eclipsed 
by the still finer and more carefully executed manuscripts 
on vellum. 

Neither my arguments nor my eloquence could prevail 
on the obdurate monks to sell me any of these books, but 
my friend, the secretary, gave me a book in his own hand, 
writing to solace me on my journey. It contained a his- 
tory of the monastery from the days of its foundation to 
the present time. It is written in Romaic, and is curious 
not so much from its subject matter as from the entire 
originality of its style and manner. 

The view from the window of the room which I occu- 
pied at Iveron was one of the finest on Mount Athos. The 
glorious sea, and the towers which command the scarica- 
tojos or landing-places of the different monasteries along 
the coast, and the superb monastery of Stavroniketa like 
a Gothic castle perched upon a beetling rock, with the 



splendid forest for a background, formed altogether a pic- 
ture totally above my powers to describe. It almost com- 
pensated for the numberless tribes of vermin by which the 
room was tenanted. In fact, the whole of the scenery on 
Mount Athos is so superlatively grand and beautiful that 
it is useless to attempt any description. 

Gbao. XXVL monastery of stav&gm$exa. 999 


The Monastery of Stavroniketa — The Library — Splendid MS. of 
St. Chrysostom — The Monastery of Pantocratoras- — Ruinous Con- 
dition of the Library — Complete Destruction of the Books — Dis- 
appointmen — Oration to the Monks — The Great Monastery of 
Vatopede — Its History — Ancient Pictures in the Church — Le- 
gend of the Girdle of the Blessed Virgin—The Library— Wealth 
and Luxury of the Monks — The Monastery of Sphigmenou — 
Beautiful Jewelled Cross — The Monastery of Kiliantan— Magni- 
ficent MS. in Gold Letters on White Vellum— The Monasteries 
of Zographou, Castamoneta, Docheirou, and Xenophou — The 
Exiled Bishops — The Library— Very fine MSS. — Proposals for 
their Purchase — Lengthened Negotiations-^Their successful 

An hour's ride brought us to the monastery of 


which is a smaller building than Iveron, with a square 
tower over the gateway. It stands on a rock overhanging 
the sea, against the base of which the waves ceaselessly 
beat. It was to this spot that a miraculous picture of St. 
Nicholas, archbishop of Myra in Lycia, floated over, of 
its own accord, from I do not know where ; and in conse- 
quence of this . auspicious event, Jercmias, patriarch of 
Constantinople, founded this monastery, of "the .vietcwy 
of the holy cross," about the year 1522. This is the 
account given by the monks ; but from the appearance 
and architecture of Stavroniketa, I conceive that it is a 
much older building, and that probably the patriarch Jere- 


mias only repaired or restored it. However that may be, 
the monastery is in very good order, clean, and well kept ; 
and I had a comfortable frugal dinner there with some of 
the good old monks, who seemed a cheerful and contented 

The library contained about eight hundred volumes, of 
which nearly two hundred were manuscripts on vellum. 
Amongst these were conspicuous the entire works of St. 
Chrysostom, in eight large folio volumes complete ; and a 
manuscript of the Scala Perfectionis in Greek, containing 
a number of most exquisite miniatures in a brilliant state 
of preservation. It was a quarto of the tenth or eleventh 
century, and a most unexceptionable tome, which these 
unkind monks preferred keeping to themselves instead of 
letting me have it, as they ought to have done. The mi- 
niatures were first-rate works of Byzantine art. It was a 
terrible pang to me to leave such a book behind. There 
were also a Psalter with several miniatures, but these were 
partially damaged ; five or six copies of the Gospels ; two 
fine folio volumes of the Menologia, or Lives of the Saints ; 
and sundry o^oikoyoi and books of divinity, and the works 
of the fathers. On paper there were two hundred more 
manuscripts, amongst which was a curious one of the 
Acts and Epistles, full of large miniatures and illumina- 
tions exceedingly well done. As it is quite clear that all 
these manuscripts are older than the time of the patriarch 
Jeremias, they confirm my opinion that he could not have 
been the original founder of the monastery. 

It is an hour's scramble over the rocks from Stavroni- 
keta to the monastery of 



This edifice was built by Manuel and Alexius Com- 
n*nus, and Johannes Pumicerius, their brother. It was 
subsequently repaired by Barbulus and Gabriel, two 
Wallachian nobles. The church is handsome and 
curious, and contains several relics, but the reliquaries 
are not of much beauty, nor of very great antiquity. 
Among them, however, is a small thick quarto volume 
about five inches square every way, in the handwriting, as 
you are told, of St. John of Kalavita. Now St. John of 
Ealavita was a hermit who died in the year 450, and his 
head is shown at Besanqon, in the church of St. Stephen, 
to which place it was taken after the siege of Constantino- 
ple. Howbeit this manuscript did not seem to me to be 
older than the twelfth century, or the eleventh at the 
earliest. It is written in a very minute hand, and contains 
the Gospels, some prayers, and lives of saints, and is 
ornamented with some small illuminations. The binding 
is very curious : it is entirely of silver gilt, and is of 
great antiquity. The back part is composed of an intri- 
cate kind of chainwork, which bends when the book is 
opened, and the sides are embossed with a variety of 

On my inquiring for the library, I was told it had been 
destroyed during the revolution. It had formerly been 
preserved in the great square tower or keep, which is a 
grand feature in all the monasteries. I went to look at . 
the place, and leaning through a ruined arch I looked 
down into the lower story of the tower, and there I saw 


the melancholy remains of a once famous library. This 
was a dismal spectacle for a devout lover of old books — a 
sort of biblical knight errant, as I then considered myself, 
who had entered on the perilous adventure of Mount Athos 
to rescue from the thraldom of ignorant monks those fair 
vellum volumes, with their bright illuminations and velvet 
dresses and jewelled clasps, which for so many centuries 
had lain imprisoned in their dark monastic dungeons. It 
was indeed a heart-rending sight. By the dim light 
which streamed through the opening of an iron door in 
the wall of the ruined tower, I saw above a hundred 
ancient manuscripts lying among the rubbish which had 
fallen from the upper floor, which was ruinous, and had 
in great part given way. Some of these manuscripts 
seemed quite entire — fine large folios ; bat the monks said 
they were unapproachable, for that floor also on which 
they lay was unsafe, the beams below being rotten from 
the wet and rain which came in through the roof. Here 
was a trap ready set and baited for a bibliographical 
antiquary. I peeped at the old manuscripts, looked par- 
ticularly at one or two that were lying in the middle of the 
floor, and could hardly resist the temptation. I advanced 
cautiously along the boards, keeping close to the wall, 
whilst every now and then a dull cracking noise warned 
me of my danger, but I tried eaoh board by stamping upon 
it with my foot before I ventured my weight upon it. At 
last, when T dared go no farther, I made them bring me a 
long stick, with which I fished up two or three fine manu- 
scripts, and poked them along towards the door. When 1 
had safely landed them, I examined them more at my 


ease, but I found that the rain had washed the outer leaves 
quite clean ; the pages were stuck tight together into a solid 
mass, and when I attempted to open them, they broke short 
off in square bits like a biscuit. Neglect and damp and 
exposure had destroyed them completely. One fine 
volume, a large folio in double columns, of most venerable 
antiquity, particularly grieved me. I do not know how 
many more manuscripts there might be under the piles 
of rubbish* Perhaps some of them might still be legible, 
but without assistance and time I could not clean out the 
ruins that had fallen from above ; and I was unable to 
save even a scrap from this general tomb of a whole race 
of books. I came out of the great tower, and sitting down 
on a pile of ruins, with a bearded assembly of grave 
caloyeri round me, I vented my sorrow and indignation in 
a long oration, which however produced a very slight 
effect upon my auditory ; but whether from their not un- 
derstanding Italian, or my want of eloquence, is matter 
of doubt. My man was the only person who seemed to 
commiserate my misfortune, and he looked so genuinely 
vexed and sorry that I liked him the better ever afterwards. 
At length I dismissed the assembly : they toddled away to 
their siesta, and I, mounted anew upon a stout well-fed 
mule, bade adieu to the hospitable agoumenos, and was 
soon occupied in picking my way among the rocks and 
trees towards the next monastery. In two hours' time we 
passed the ruins of a large building standing boldly on a 
hill. It had formerly been a college ; and a magnificent 
aqueduct of fourteen double arches — that is, two rows qf 
arches one above the other— -connected it with another 


hill, and had a grand effect, with bng and luxuriant 
masses of flowers streaming from its neglected walls. In 
half an hour more I arrived at 


This is the largest and richest of all the monasteries of 
Mount Athos. It is situated on the side of a hill where 
a valley opens to the sea, and commands a little harbour 
where three small Greek vessels were lying at anchor. 
The buildings are of great extent, with several towers and 
domes rising above the walls : I should say it was not 
smaller than the upper ward of Windsor Castle. The 
original building was erected by the Emperor Constantine 
the Great. That worthy prince being, it appears, much 
afflicted by the leprosy, ordered a number of little children 
to be killed, a bath of juvenile blood being considered an 
excellent remedy. But while they were selecting them, 
he was told in a vision that if he would become a Christian 
his leprosy should depart from him : he did so, and was 
immediately restored to health, and all the children lived 
long and happily. This story is related by Moses Cho- 
rensis, whose veracity I would not venture to doubt. 

In the fifth century this monastery was thrown down by 
Julian the Apostate. Theodosius the Great built it up 
again in gratitude for the miraculous escape of his son 
Arcadius, who having fallen overboard from his galley in 
the Archipelago, was landed safely on this spot through 
the intercession of the Virgin, to whose special honour 
the great church was founded: fourteen ciher chapels 
within the walls attest the piety of other ir.j.Viduals. In 


the year 862 the Saracens landed, destroyed the monastery 
by fire, slew many of the monks, took the treasures and 
broke the mosaics ; but the representation of the Blessed 
Virgin was indestructible, and still remained safe and 
perfect above the altar. There was also a well under the 
altar, into which some of the relics were thrown and 
afterwards recovered by the community. 

About the year 1300 St. Athanasius the Patriarch 
persuaded Nicholaus and Antonius, certain rich men 
of Adrianople, to restore the monastery once more, 
which they did, and taking the vows became monks 
and were buried in the narthex or portico of the 
church. I may here observe that this was the nearest 
approach to being buried within the church that was 
permitted in the early times of Christianity, and such 
is still the rule observed in the Greek Church : altars 
were, however, raised over the tombs or places of execu- 
tion of martyrs. 

This church contains a great many ancient pictures of 
small size, most of them having the background overlaid 
with plates of silver-gilt : two of these are said to be por- 
traits of the Empress Theodora. Two other pictures of 
larger size and richly set with jewels are interesting as 
having been brought from the church of St. Sophia at 
Constantinople, when that city fell a prey to the Turkish 
arms. Over the doors of the church and of the great 
refectory there are mosaics representing, if I remember 
rightly, saints and holy persons. One of the chapels, a 
separate building with a dome which had been newly 
repaired, is dedicated to the " Preservation of the Girdle 


of the Blessed Virgin," a relic which must be a source of 
considerable revenue to the monastery r for they have 
divided it into two parts, and one half is sent into Greece 
and the other half into Asia Minor whenever the plague is 
raging in those countries, and all those who are afflicted 
with that terrible disease are sure to be cured if they 
touch it r which they are allowed to do "for a consider- 
ation" On my inquiring how the monastery became 
possessed of so inestimable a medicine, I was gravely 
informed that, after the assumption of the Blessed Virgin, 
St. Thomas went up to heaven to pay her a visit, and 
there she presented him with her girdle. My informant 
appeared to have the most unshakeable conviction as to the 
truth of this history, and expressed great surprise that I 
had never heard it before. 

The library, although containing nearly fbur thousand 
printed books, has none of any high antiquity or on any sub- 
ject but divinity. There are also about a thousand manu- 
scripts, of which three or fbur hundred are on vellum ; 
amongst these there are three copies of the works of St. 
Chrysostom : they also have his head in the church — that 
golden mouth out of which proceeded the voice which 
shook the empire with the thunder of its denunciations. 
The most curious manuscripts are six rolls of parchment, 
each ten inches wide and about ten feet long, containing 
prayers for festivals on the anniversaries of the foundation 
of certain churches. There were at this time above three 
hundred monks resident in the monastery ; many of these 
held offices and places of dignity under the agoumenos, 
whose establishment resembled the court of a petty 


sovereign prince. Altogether this convent well illus- 
trates what some of the great monastic establishments in 
England must have been before the Reformation. It 
covers at least lour acres of ground, and contains so many 
separate buildings within its massive walls that it re- 
sembles a fortified town. Everything told of wealth and 
indolence. When I arrived the lord abbot was asleep ; 
he was too great a man to be aroused ; he had eaten 
a full meal in his own apartment, and be could not be 
disturbed. His secretary, a thin pale monk, was deputed 
to show me the wonders of the place, and as we proceeded 
through the different chapels and enormous magazines of 
corn, wine, and oil, the officers of the different depart- 
ments bent down to kiss his hand, for he was high in the 
favour of my lord the abbot, and, was evidently a man not 
to be slighted by the inferior authorities if they wished to 
get on and prosper. The cellarer was a sly old fellow 
with a thin grey beard, and looked as if he could tell a 
good story of an evening over a flagon of good wine. 
Except at some of the palaces in Germany I have never 
seen such gigantic tuns as those in the cellars at V atopede. 
The oil is kept in marble vessels of the size and shape of 
sarcophagi, and there is a curious picture in the entrance 
room of the oil-store, which represents the miraculous 
increase in their stock of oil during a year of scarcity, 
when, through the intercession of a pious monk who then 
had charge of that department, the marble basins, which 
were almost empty, overflowed, and a river of fine fresh 
oil poured in torrents through the door. The frame of this 
picture is set with jewels, and it appears to be very 


ancient. The refectory is an immense room ; it stands 
in front of the church and has twenty- four marble tables 
and seats, and is in the same cruciform shape as that at 
St. Laura. It has frequently accommodated five hundred 
guests, the servants and tenants of the abbey, who come 
on stated days to pay their rents and receive the bene- 
diction of the agoumenos. Sixty or seventy fat mules are 
kept for the use of the community, and a very consider- 
able number of Albanian servants and muleteers are 
lodged in outbuildings before the great gate. These, un- 
like their brethren of Epirus, are a quiet, stupid race, and 
whatever may be their notions of another world, they 
evidently think that in this there is no man living equal in 
importance to the great agoumenos of Vatopede, and no 
earthly place to compare with the great monastery over 
which he rules. 

From Vatopede it requires two hours and a half to ride 
to the monastery of 


which is a much smaller establishment. It is said to have 
been founded by the Empress Pulcheria, sister of the Em- 
peror Theodosius the younger, and if so must be a very 
ancient building, for the empress died on the 18th of 
February, in the year 453. Her brother Theodosius was ^ 

known by the title or cognomen of xaXfoygcupog, from the "^ 

beauty of his writing : he was a protector of the Nestorian ^ a 

and Eutychian heretics, and ended his life on the 20th of ^Pp 

October, 460. : *% 

This monastery is situated in a narrow valley close to * &H( 


the sea, squeezed in between three little hills, from which 
circumstance it derives its name of <fq«y|xsvos, " squeezed 
together." It is inhabited by thirty monks, who are 
cleaner, and keep their church in better order and neatness 
than most of their brethren on Mount Athoe. Among the 
relics of the saints, which are the first things they show to 
the pilgrim from beyond the sea, is a beautiful ancient 
cross of gold, set with diamonds. Diamonds are of very 
rare occurrence in ancient pieces of jewellery ; it is indeed 
doubtful whether they were known to the ancients, ada- 
mantine being an epithet applied to the hardness of steel, 
and I have never seen a diamond in any work of art of the 
Roman or classical era. Besides the diamonds the cross 
has on the upper end and on the extremities of the two 
arms three very fine and large emeralds, each fastened on 
with three gold nails ; it fs a fine specimen of early jewel- 
lery, and of no small intrinsic value. 

The library is in a room over the porch of the church : 
it contains about 1500 volumes, half of which are manu- 
scripts, mostly on paper, and all theological. I met with 
four copies of the Gospels and two of the Epistles, all the 
others being books of the church service and the usual 
folios of the fathers. There was, however, a Russian or 
Bulgarian manuscript of the four Gospels with an illumi- 
nation at the commencement of each Gospel. It is written 
in capital letters, and seemed to be of considerable anti- 
quity. I was disappointed at not finding manuscripts of 
greater age in so very ancient a monastery as this is ; but 
perhaps it has undergone more squeezing than that 


inflicted upon it by the three hills. I slept here in peace 
and comfort. 

On the sea-shore not far from Sphigmenou are the ruins 
of the monastery of St. Basil, opposite a small rocky island 
in the sea, which I left at this point, and striking up the 
country arrived in an hour's time at the monastery of 


or a thousand lions. This is a large building, of which 
the ground plan resembles the shape of an open fan. It 
stands in a valley, and contained, when I entered its hos- 
pitable gates, about fifty monks. They preserve in the 
sacristy a superb chalice, of a kind of bloodstone set in 
gold, about a foot high and eight inches wide, the gift of 
one of the Byzantine emperors. This monastery was 
founded by Simeon, Prince of Servia, I could not make 
out at what time. In the library they had no great num. 
ber of books, and what there were were all Russian or 
Bulgarian : I saw none which seemed to be of great anti- 
quity. On inquiring, however, whether they had not some 
Greek manuscripts, the Agoumenos said they had one, 
which he went and brought me out of the sacristy ; and 
this, to my admiration and surprise, was not only the finest 
manuscript on Mount Athos, but the finest that I had met 
with in any Greek monastery with the single exception of 
the golden manuscript of the New Testament at Mount 
Sinai. It was a 4to. Evangelistarium, written in golden 
letters on fine white vellum. The characters were a kind 
of semi* uncial, rather round in their forms, of large sioe, 


and beautifully executed, but often joined together and 
having many contractions and abbreviations, in these re- 
spects resembling the Mount Sinai MS. This magnificent 
volume was given to the monastery by the Emperor An- 
dronicus Comnenus about the year 1184; it is conse- 
quently not an early MS., but its imperial origin renders 
it interesting to the admirers of literary treasures, while 
the very raro occurrence of a Greek MS. written in letters 
of gold would make it a most desirable and important 
acquisition to any royal library ; for besides the two 
above-mentioned there are not, 1 believe, more than seven 
or eight MSS. of this description in existence, and of these 
several are merely fragments, and only one is on white 
vellum : this is in the library of the Holy Synod at Mos- 
cow. Five of the others are on blue or purple vellum, 
viz., Codex Cottonianus, in the British Museum, Titus C. 
15, a fragment of the Gospels ; an octavo Evangelistarium 
at Vienna ; a fragment of the books of Genesis and St. 
Luke in silver letters at Vienna ; the Codex Turicensis 
of part of the Psalms ; and six leaves of the Gospels of 
St. Matthew in silver letters with the initials in gold in the 
Vatican. There may possibly be others, but I have never 
heard of them. Latin MSS. in golden letters are much 
less scarce, but Greek MSS., even those which merely 
contain two or three pages written in gold letters, are of 
such rarity that hardly a dozen are to be met with : of 
these there are three in the library at Parham. I think the 
Codex Ebnerianus has one or two pages written in gold, 
and the tables of a gospel in Jerusalem are in gold on deep 
purple vellum. At this moment I do not remember any 


more, although doubtless there must be a few of these par- 
tially ornamented volumes scattered through the great 
libraries of Europe. 

From Kiliantari, which is the last monastery on the N.E. 
side of the promontory, we struck across the peninsula, 
and two hours' riding brought us to ^ 


through plains of rich green grass dotted over with gigan- 
tic single trees, the scenery being like that of an English 
park, only finer and more luxuriant as well as more exten- 
sive. This monastery was founded in the reign of Leo 
Sophos, by three nobles of Constantinople who became 
monks ; and the local tradition is that it was destroyed by 
the " Pope of Rome." How that happened I know not, 
but it was rebuilt in the year 1502 by Stephanus, Way- 
wode of Moldavia. It is a large fortified building of very 
imposing appearance, situated on a steep hill surrounded 
with trees and gardens overlooking a deep valley which 
opens on the gulf of Monte Santo. The MSS. here are 
Bulgarian, and not of early date ; they had no Greek 
MSS. whatever. 

From Zographou, following the valley, we arrived at a 
lower plain on the sea coast, and there we discovered that 
we had lost our way ; we therefore retraced our steps, and 
turning up among the hills to our left we came in three 
hours to 

which, had we taken the right road, we might have reached 


in one. This is a very poor monastery, but it is of great 
age and its architecture is picturesque : it was originally 
founded by Constantine the Great. It has no library nor 
anything particularly well worth mentioning, excepting 
the original deed of the Emperor Manuel Paleologus, with 
the sign manual of that potentate written in very large 
letters in red ink at the bottom of the deed, by which he 
granted to the monastery the lands which it still retains. 
The poor monks were much edified by the sight of the 
patriarchal letter, and when I went away rang the bells of 
the church tower to do me honour. 

At the distance of one hour from hence stands the 
monastery of 


It is the first to the west of those upon the south-west 
shore of the peninsula. It is a monastery of great size, 
with ample room for a hundred monks, although inhabited 
by only twenty. It was built in the reign of Nicephorus 
Botoniates, and was last repaired in the year 1578, by 
Alexander, Waywode of Moldavia. I was very well 
lodged in this convent, and the fleas were singularly few. 
The library contained two thousand five hundred volumes, 
of which one hundred and fifty were vellum MSS. I 
omitted to note the number of MSS. on paper, but amongst 
them I found a part of Sophocles and a fine folio of Sui- 
das's Lexicon. Among the vellum MSS. there was a folio 
in the Bulgarian language, and various works of the 
fathers. I found also three loose leaves of an Evangelis- 
tarium in uncial letters of the ninth century, which had 


been lut out of some ancient volume, for which I hunted 
in th; dust in vain. The monks gave me these three 
leftvej on my asking for them, for even a few pages of such 
a manuscript as this are not to be despised. 

From Docheirou it is only a distance of half an hour to 


which stands upon the sea shore. Here they were build- 
ing a church in the centre of the great court, which, when 
it is finished, will be the largest on Mount Athos. Three 
Greek bishops were living here in exile. I did not learn 
what the holy prelates had done, but their misdeeds had 
been found out by the Patriarch, and he had sent them here 
to rusticate. This monastery is of a moderate size ; its 
founder was St. Xenophou, regarding whose history or the 
period at which he lived I am unable to give any informa- 
tion, as nobody knew anything about him on ihe spot, and 
I cannot find him in any catalogue of saints which I pos- 
sess. The monastery was repaired in the year 1545 by 
Danzulas Bornicus and Badulus, who were brothers, and 
Banus (the Ban) Barbulus, all three nobles of Hungary, 
and was afterwards beautified by Matthseus, Waywode of 

The library consists of fifteen hundred printed books, 
nineteen MSS. on paper, eleven on vellum, and three rolls 
on parchment, containing liturgies for particular days. 
Of the MSS. on vellum there were three which merit a 
description. One was a fine 4to. of part of the works of 
St. Chrysostom, of great antiquity, but not in uncial let- 
ten. Another was a 4to. of the four Gospels bound in 


faded .red velvet with silver clasps. This book they 
affirmed to be a royal present to the monastery ; it was of 
the eleventh or twelfth century, and was peculiar from the 
text being accompanied by a voluminous commentary on 
the margin and several pages of calendars, prefaces, &c., 
at the beginning. The headings of the Gospels were 
written in large plain letters of gold. In the libraries of 
forty Greek monasteries I have only met with one other 
copy of the Gospels with a commentary. The third manu* 
script was an immense quarto Bvangelistarium sixteen 
inches square, bound in faded green or blue velvet, and 
said to be in the autograph of the Emperor Alexius Com* 
nenus. The text throughout on each page was written in 
the form of a cross. Two of the pages are in purple ink 
powdered with gold, and these, there is every reason to 
suppose, are in the handwriting of the imperial scribe him- 
self; for the Byzantine sovereigns affected to write only 
in purple, as their deeds and a magnificent MS. in another 
monastic library, of which I have not given an account in 
these pages, can testify : the titles of this superb volume 
are written in gold, covering the whole page. Altogether, 
although not in uncial letters, it was among the finest 
Greek MSS. that I had ever seen — perhaps, next to the 
uncial MSS., the finest to be met with anywhere. 

I asked the monks whether they were inclined to part 
with these three books, and offered to purchase them and 
the parchment rolls. There was a little consultation 
among them, and then they desired to be shown those 
which I particularly coveted. Then there was another 
consultation, and they asked me which I set the greatest 


value on. So I said the rolls, on which the three rolls 
were unrolled, and looked at, and examined, and peeped 
at by the three monks who put themselves forward in the 
business, with more pains and curiosity than had probably 
been ever wasted upon them before. At last they said it 
was impossible, the rolls were too precious to be parted 
with, but if I liked to give a good price I should have the 
rest ; upon which I took up the St. Chrysostom, the least 
valuable of the three, and while I examined it, saw from 
the corner of my eye the three monks nudging each other 
and making signs. So I said, " Well, now what will you 
take for your two books, this and the big one ?" They 
asked five thousand piastres ; whereupon, with a look of 
indignant scorn, I laid down the St. Chrysostom and got 
up to go away ; but after a good deal more talk we 
retired to the divan, or drawing-room as it may be called, 
of the monastery, where I conversed with the three exiled 
bishops. In course of time I was called out into another 
room to have a cup of coffee. There were my friends the 
three monks, the managing committee, and under the divan, 
imperfectly concealed, were the corners of the three splendid 
MSS. 1 knew that now all depended on my own tact 
whether my still famished saddle-bags were to have a 
meal or not that day, the danger lying between offering 
too much or too little. If you offer too much, a Greek, a 
Jew, or an Armenian immediately thinks that the desired 
object must be invaluable, that it must have some magical 
properties, like the lamp of Aladdin, which will bring 
wealth upon its possessor if he can but find out its secret ; 
and he will either ask you a sum absurdly large, or will 


refuse to sell it at any price, but will lock it up and be. 
come nervous about it, and examine it over and over again 
privately to see what can be the cause of a Frank's offer- 
ing so much for a thing apparently so utterly useless. On 
the other hand, too little must not be offered, for it .would 
be an indignity to suppose that persons of consideration 
would condescend to sell things of trifling value — it 
wounds their aristocratic feelings, they are above such 
meannesses. By St. Xenophou, how we did talk! for 
five mortal hours it went on, I pretending to go away 
several times, but being always called back by one or 
other of the learned committee. I drank coffee and sher 
bet and they drank arraghi ; but in the end I got the 
great book of Alexius Comnenus for the value of twenty- 
two pounds, and the curious Gospels, which I had treated 
with the most cool disdain all along, was finally thrown 
into the bargain, and out I walked with a big book under 
each arm, bearing with perfect resignation the smiles and 
scoffs of the three brethren, who could scarcely contain their 
laughter at the way they had done the silly traveller. 
Then did the saddle-bags begin to assume a more comely 
and satisfactory form. 

After a stirrup cup of hot coffee, perfumed with the 
incense of the church, the monks bid me a joyous adieu ; 
I responded as joyously : in short every one was charmed, 
except the mule, who evidently was more surprised than 
pleased at the increased weight which he had to carry. 

358 MONASTERY OF hussico. Chap. XXVH. 


The Monastery of Russico— Its Courteous Abbot — The Monastery 
of Xeropotamo— -Its History-*— High Character of its Abbot- 
Excursion to the Monasteries of St. Nicholas and St. Dionisius — 
Interesting Relics — Magnificent Shrine — The Library — The 
Monastery of St. Paul— Respect shown by the Monks — Beautiful 
MS. — Extraordinary Liberality and Kindness of the Abbot and 
Monks— A valuable Acquisition at little Cost— The Monastery 
of Simopetra — Purchase of MS — The Monk of Xeropotamo— 
His Ideas about Women — Excursion to Cariez— The Monastery 
of Coutloumoussi — The Russian Book-Stealer— History of the 
Monastery — Its reputed Destruction by the Pope of Rome— The 
Aga of Cairez — Interview in a Kiosk — The She Cat of Mount 

From Xenophou I went on to 


where also they were repairing the injuries which 
different parts of the edifice had sustained during the late 
Greek war. The agoumenos of this monastery was a 
remarkably gentlemanlike and accomplished man ; be 
spoke several languages and ruled oyer a hundred and 
thirty monks. They had, however, amongst them all only 
nine MSS., and those were of no interest. The agoume- 
nos told me that the monastery- formerly possessed a MS. 
of Homer on vellum, which he sold to two English gen- 
tlemen some years ago, who were immediately afterwards 
plundered by pirates, and the MS. thrown into the sea. 
As I never heard of any Englishman having been at 
Mount Athos since the days of Dr. Clarke and Dr. 


Carlysle, I could not make out who these gentlemen were ; 
probably they were Frenchmen, or Europeans of some 
other nation. However, the idea of pirates gave me a 
horrid qualm ; and I thought how dreadful it would be 
if they threw my Alexius Comnenus into the sea ; it made 
me feel quite uncomfortable. This monastery was built 
by the Empress Catherine the First, of Russia— or, to 
speak more correctly, repaired by her — for it was origi- 
nally founded by Saint Lazarus Knezes, of Servia, and 
the church dedicated to St. Panteleemon the Martyr. A 
ride of an hour brought me to 


where I was received with so much hospitality and kind- 
ness that I determined to make it my head-quarters while I 
visited the other monasteries, which from this place could 
readily be approached by sea. I was fortunate in pro- 
curing a boat with two men — a sort of naval lay brethren, 
—who agreed to row me about wherever I liked, and bring 
me back to Xeropotamo for fifty piastres, and this they 
would do whenever I chose, as they were not very par- 
ticular about time, an article upon which they evidently 
set small value. 

This monastery was founded by the Emperor Romanus 
about the year 920 ; it was rebuilt by Andronicus the 
Second in 1320 ; in the sixteenth century it was thrown 
down by an earthquake, and was again repaired by the 
Sultan Selim the First, or at least during his reign— that 
is, about 1515. It was in a ruinous condition in the 
year 1701 ; it was again repaired, and in the Greek ievo« 


itition it was again dismantled ; at the time of my visit 
they were actively employed in restoring it. Alexander, 
Waywode of Wallachia, was a great benefactor to this 
and other monasteries of Athos, which owe much to the 
piety of the different Christian princes of the Danubian 
states of the Turkish Empire. 

The library over the porch of the church, which is 
large and handsome, contains one thousand printed books 
and between thirty and forty manuscripts in bad condition. 
I saw none of consequence : that is to say, nothing except 
the usual volumes of divinity of the twelfth century. In 
the church is preserved a large piece of the holy cross 
richly set with valuable jewels. The agoumenos of 
Xeropotamo, a man with a dark-grey beard, about sixty 
years of age, struck me as a fine specimen of what an abbot 
of an ascetic monastery ought to be ; simple and kind, yet 
clever enough, and learned in the divinity of his church, he 
set an example to the monks under his rule of devotion and 
rectitude of conduct ; he was not slothful, or haughty, or 
grasping, and seemed to have a truly religious and cheer- 
fill mind. He was looked up to and beloved by the whole 
community ; and with his dignified manner and appear- 
ance, his long grey hair, and dark flowing robes, he gave 
me the idea of what the saints and holy men of old must 
have been in the early days of Christianity, when they 
walked entirely in the faith, and— if required to do so— 
willingly gave themselves up as martyrs to the cause : 
when in all their actions they were influenced solely by 
the dictates of their religion. Would that such times 
would come again ! But where every one sets up a new 


religion for himself, and when people laugh at and ridicule 
those things which their ignorance prevents them from 
appreciating, how can we hope for this ? 

Early in the morning I started from my comfortable 
couch, and ran scrambling down the hill, over the rolling- 
stones in the dry bed of the torrent on which the monas- 
tery of the " dry river" dfy^tHroTafjwu — courou chesme" in 
Turkish) is built. We got into the boat : our carpets, 
some oranges, and various little stores for a day's journey, 
which the good monks had supplied us with, being brought 
down by sundry good-natured lubberly xaraxu|Wvoj — 
religious youths — who were delighted at having something 
to do, and were as pleased as children, at having a good 
heavy praying-carpet to carry, or a basket of oranges, or 
a cushion from the monastery. They all waited on the 
shore to see us off, and away we went along the coast. 
As the sun got up it became oppressively hot, and the 
first monastery we came abreast of was that of Simopelra, 
which is perched on the top of a perpendicular rock, five 
or six hundred feet high at least, if not twice as much. 
This rather daunted me : and as we thought perhaps to- 
morrow would not be so hot, I put off climbing up the 
precipice for the present, and rowed gently on in the calm 
sea till we came to the monastery of 


the smallest of all the convents of Mount Athos. It was 
a most picturesque building, stuck up on a rock, and is 
famous for its figs, in the eating of which, in the absence 
of more interesting matter, we all enjoyed ourselves a ooa- 



siderable time ; they were marvellously cool and delicious, 
and there were such quantities of them. We and the 
boatmen sut in the shade, and enjoyed ourselves till we 
were ashamed of staying any longer. I forgot to ask who 
the founder was. There was no library ; in fact, there 
was nothing but figs ; so we got into the boat again, and 
sweltered on a quarter of an hour more, and then we 
came to 


This monastery is also built upon a rock immediately 
above the sea ; it is of moderate size, but is in good repair. 
There was a look of comfort about it that savoured of 
easy circumstances, but the number of monks in it was 
small. Altogether this monastery, as regards the antiqui- 
ties it contained, was the most interesting of all. The 
church, a good-sized building, is in a very perfect state of 
preservation. Hanging on the wall near the door of en- 
trance was a portrait painted on wood, about three feet 
square, in a frame of silver-gilt, set with jewels ; it repre- 
sented Alexius Comnenus, Emperor of Trebizonde, the 
founder of the monastery. He it was, I believe, who 
built that most beautiful church a little way out of the 
town of Trebizonde, which is called St. Sofia, probably 
from its resemblance to the cathedral of Constantinople. 
He is drawn in his imperial robes, and the portrait is one 
of the most curious I ever saw. He founded this church 
in the year 1380 ; and Neagulus and Peter, Waywodes 
of Bessarabia, restored and repaired the monastery. 
There was another curious portrait of a lady ; I did not 


learn who it was : very probably the Er/j^ress Pulcheria, 
or else Roxandra Domna (Domina ?), wifo of Alexander, 
Way wode of Wallachia ; for both these laO ; es were bene- 
factors to the convent. 

I was taken, as a pilgrim, to the chuK,h, and we stood 
in the middle of the floor before the ixcvotfratfif, whilst the 
monks brought out an old-fashioned low wooden table, 
upon which they placed the relics of the taints which they 
presumed we came to adore. Of these some v eie very 
interesting specimens of intricate workmanship and superb 
and precious materials. One was a patera, of a kind of 
china or paste, made, as I imagine, of a multitude of tur- 
quoises ground down together, for it was too large to be of 
one single turquoise ; there is one of the same kind, but 
of far inferior workmanship, in the treasury of St. Me>rc. 
This marvellous dish is carved in very high relief with 
minute figures or little statues of the saints, with inscrip- 
tions in very early Greek. It is set in pure gold, richly 
worked, and was a gift from the Empress or imperial 
Princess Pulcheria. Then there was an invaluable shrine 
for the head of St. John the Baptist, whose bones and ano- 
ther of his heads are in the cathedral at Genoa. St. John 
Lateran also boasts a head of St. John, but that may have 
belonged to St. John the Evangelist. This shrine was the 
gift of Neagulus, Way wode or Hospodar of Wallachia : 
it is about two feet long and two feet high, and is in the 
shape of a Byzantine church ; the material is silver-gilt, 
but the admirable and singular style of the workmanship 
gives it a value far surpassing its intrinsic worth. The 
roof is covered with five domes of gold ; on each side it 


has sixteen recesses, in which are portraits of the saints 
in niello, and at each end there are eight others. All the 
windows are enriched in open-work tracery, of a strange 
sort of Gothic pattern, unlike anything in Europe. It is 
altogether a wonderful and precious monument of ancient 
art, the production of an almost unknown country, rich, 
quaint, and original in its design and execution, and is 
indeed one of the most curious objects on Mount Athos ; 
although the patera of the Princess Pulcheria might pro- 
bably be considered of greater value. There were many 
other shrines and reliquaries, but none of any particular 

I next proceeded to the library, which contained not 
much less than a thousand manuscripts, half on paper and 
half on vellum. Of those on vellum the most valuable 
were a quarto Evangelistarium, in uncial letters, and in 
beautiful preservation ; another Evangelistarium, of which 
three fly-leaves were in early uncial Greek ; a small 
quarto of the Dialogues of St. Gregory, SioCKoyoi Tgsyogm tod 
JsoXo/ou, not in uncial letters, with twelve fine miniatures; 
a small quarto New Testament, containing the Apoca- 
lypse ; and some magnificent folios of the Fathers of the 
eleventh century ; but not one classic author. Among 
the manuscripts on paper were a folio of the Iliad of 
Homer, badly written, two copies of the works of Diony- 
sius the Areopagite, and a multitude of books for the 
church-service. Alas! they would part with nothing. 
The library was altogether a magnificent collection, and 
for the most part well preserved : they had no great num- 
ber of printed books. I should imagine that this monas. 


tery must, from some fortunate accident, have suffered less 
from spoliation during the late revolution than any of the 
others ; for considering that it is not a very large establish- 
ment, the number of valuable things it contained was 
quite astonishing. 

A quarter of an hour's row brought us to the 
scaricatojo of 


from whence we had to walk a mile and a half up a steep 
hill to the monastery, where building repairs were going 
on with great activity. I was received with cheerful 
hospitality, and soon made the acquaintance of four 
monks, who amongst them spoke English, French, Italian, 
and German. Having been installed in a separate bed- 
room, cleanly furnished in the Turkish style, where I 
subsequently enjoyed a delightful night's rest, undisturbed 
by a single flea, I was conducted into a large airy hall. 
Here, after a very comfortable dinner, the smaller fry of 
monks assembled to hear the illustrious stranger hold forth 
in turn to the four wise fathers who spoke unknown 
tongues. The simple, kind hearted brethren looked with 
awe and wonder on the quadruple powers of those lips 
that uttered such strange sounds : just as the Peruvians 
made their reverence to the Spanish horses, whose speech 
they understood not, and whose manners were beyond 
their comprehension. It was fortunate for my reputation 
that the reverend German scholar was of a close and 
taciturn disposition, since my knowledge of his scraughing 
language did not extend very far, and when we got to 


scientific discussion I was very nearly at a stand still ; 
but I am inclined to think that he upheld my dignity to 
save his own; and as my servant, who never minced 
matters, had doubtless told them that I could speak ninety 
other languages, and was besides nephew to most of the 
crowned heads of Europe, if a phoenix had come in he 
would have had a lower place assigned him. I found also 
that in this — as indeed in all the other monasteries — one 
who had performed the pilgrimage to the Holy Land was 
looked upon with a certain degree of respect. In 
short, I found that at last I was amongst a set of people 
who had the sense to appreciate my merits ; so I held up 
my head, and assumed all the dignified humility of real 

This monastery was founded for Bulgarian and Servian 
monks by Constantine Biancobano, Hospodar of Wallachia. 
There was little that was interesting in it, either in archi- 
tecture or any other walk of art ; the library was con- 
tained in a small light closet, the books were clean, and 
ranged in order on the new deal shelves. There was 
only one Greek manuscript, a duodecimo copy of the 
Gospels of the twelfth or thirteenth century. The Servian 
and Bulgarian manuscripts amounted to about two 
hundred and fifty : of these three were remarkable ; the 
first was a manuscript of the four Gospels, a thick quarto, 
and the uncial letters in which it was written were three 
fourths of an inch in height ; it was imperfect at the end. 
The second was also a copy of the Gospels, a folio, in 
uncial letters, with fine illuminations at the beginning of 
each Gospel, and a large and curious portrait of a patri- 


arch at the end ; all the stops in this volume were dots of 
gold ; several words also were written in gold. It was a 
noble manuscript. The third was likewise a folio of the 
Gospels in the ancient Bulgarian language, and, like the 
other two, in uncial letters. This manuscript was quite 
full of illuminations from beginning to end. [ had seen 
no book like it anywhere in the Levant. I almost tumbled 
off the steps on which I was perched on the discovery of 
so extraordinary a volume. I saw that these books were 
taken care of, so I did not much like to ask whether they 
would part with them ; more especially as the community 
was evidently a prosperous one, and had no need to sell 
any of their goods. 

After walking about the monastery with the monks, as 
I was going away the agoumenos said he wished he had 
anything which he could present to me as a memorial of 
my visit to the convent of St. Paul. On this a brisk fire 
of reciprocal compliments ensued, and I observed that I 
should like to take a book. " Oh ! by all means !" he 
said ; " we make no use of the old books, and should be 
glad if you would accept one." We returned to the 
library ; and the agoumenos took out one at a hazard, as 
you might take a brick or a stone out of a pile, and pre- 
sented it to me. Quoth I, " If you don't care what book 
it is that you are so good as to give me, let me take one 
which pleases me ;" and, so saying, I took down the 
illuminated folio of the Bulgarian Gospels, and I could 
hardly believe I was awake when the agoumenos gave it 
into my hands. Perhaps the greatest piece of imperti. 
nence of which I was ever guilty, was when I asked to 


buy another ; but that they insisted upon giving me also ; 
go I took the other two copies of the Gospels mentioned 
above, all three as free-will gifts. I felt almost ashamed 
at accepting these two last books ; but who could resist it, 
knowing that they were utterly valueless to the monks, 
and were not saleable in the bazaar at Constantinople, 
Smyrna, Salonica, or any neighbou* ing city ? However, 
before I went away, as a salvo to ny conscience I gave 
some money to the church. The a Jthorities accompanied 
me beyond the outer gate, and by the kindness of the 
agoumenos mules were provided to take us down to the 
sea-shore, where vt e found our clerical mariners ready for 
us. One of the monks, who wished for a passage to 
Xeropotamo, accompanied us; and, turning our boat's 
head again to the north-west, we arrived before long a 
second time below the lofty rock of 


This monastery was founded by St. Simon the Ancho- 
rite, of whose history I was unable to learn anything. 
The buildings are connected with the side of the mountain 
by a fine aqueduct, which has a grand effect, perched as 
it is at so great a height above the sea, and consisting of 
two rows of eleven arches, one above the other, with one 
lofty arch across a chasm immediately under the walls of 
the monastery, which, as seen from this side, resembles an 
immense square tower, with several rows of wooden 
balconies or galleries projecting from the walls at a pro- 
digious height from the ground. It was no slight effort of 
gymnastics to get up to the door, where I was reoM*w«d 


with many grotesque bows by an ancient porter. I was 
ushered into the presence of the agoumenos, who sat in a 
hall, surrounded by a reverend conclave of his bearded 
and long-haired monks ; and after partaking of sweet- 
meats and water, and a cup of coffee, according to custom, 
but no pipes — for the divines of Mount Athos do not 
indulge in smoking — they took me to the church and to the 

In the latter I found a hundred and fifty manuscripts, of 
which fifty were on vellum, all works of divinity, and not 
above ten or twelve of them fine books. I asked permis- 
sion to purchase three, to which they acceded. These 
were the ' Life and Works of St. John Climax, Agoume- 
nos of Mount Sinai,' a quarto of the eleventh century ; the 
'Acts and Epistles,' a noble folio written in large letters, in 
double columns : a very fine manuscript, the letters up- 
right and not much joined together : at the end is an 
inscription in red letters, which may contain the date, but 
it is so faint that I could not make it out. The third was a 
quarto of the four Gospels, with a picture of an evangelist 
at the beginning of each Gospel. Whilst I was arranging 
the payment for these manuscripts, a monk, opening the co- 
py of the Gospels, found at the end a horrible anathema and 
malediction written by the donor, a prince or king, he said, 
against any one who should sell or part with this book. 
This was very unlucky, and produced a great effect upon 
the monks ; but as no anathema was found in either of the 
two other volumes, I was allowed to take them, and 
so went on my way rejoicing. They rang the bells at my 
departure, and I heard them at intervals jingling in the air 


above me as I scrambled down the rocky mountain, 
Except Dionisiou, this was the only monastery where the 
agoumenos kissed the letter of the patriarch and laid 
it upon his forehead ; the sign of reverence and obedience 
which is, or ought to be, observed with the firmans of the 
Sultan and other oriental potentates. 

The same evening I got back to my comfortable room at 
Xeropotamo, and did ample justice to a good meagre din- 
ner after the heat and fatigues of the day. A monk had 
arrived from one of the outlying farms who could speak a 
little Italian ; he was deputed to do the honours of the 
house, and accordingly dined with me. He was a magni- 
ficent-looking man of thirty or thirty-five years of age, 
with large eyes and long black hair and beard. As we 
sat together in the evening in the ancient room, by the 
light of one dim brazen lamp, with deep shades thrown 
across his face and figure, I thought he would have made 
an admirable study for Titian or Sebastian del Piombo. In 
the course of conversation I found that he had learned 
Italian from another monk, having never been out of the 
peninsula of Mount Athos. His parents and most of the 
other inhabitants of the village where he was born, some- 
where in Roumelia — but its name or exact position he did 
not know — had been massacred during some revolt or dis- 
turbance. So he had been told, but he remembered no- 
thing about it ; he had been educated in a school in this or 
one of the other monasteries, and his whole life had been 
passed upon the Holy Mountain ; and this, he said, was the 
case with very many other monks. He did not remember 
his mother, and did not seem quite sure that he ever had 


one ; he had never seen a woman, nor had he any idea 
what sort of things women were, or what they looked like. 
He asked me whether they resembled the pictures of the 
Panagia, the Holy Virgin, which hang in every church. 
Now, those who are conversant with the peculiar conven- 
tional representations of the Blessed Virgin in the pictures 
of the Greek church, which are all exactly alike, stiff, 
hard, and dry, without any appearance of life or motion, 
. will agree with me that they do not afford a very favoura- 
ble idea of the grace or beauty of the fair sex ; and that 
there was a difference of appearance between black 
women, Circassians, and those of other nations, which was, 
however, difficult to describe to one who had never seen a 
lady of any race. He listened with great interest while I 
told him that all women were not exactly like the pictures 
he had seen, but I did not think it charitable to carry or 
the conversation further, although the poor monk seemed 
to have a strong inclination to know more of that interest- 
ing race of beings from whose society he had been so 
entirely debarred. I often thought afterwards of the singu- 
lar lot of this manly and noble-looking monk : whether he 
is still a recluse, either in the monastery or in his moun- 
tain farm, with its little moss-grown chapel as ancient as 
the days of Constantine ; or whether he has gone out 
into the world and mingled with its pleasures and its 

I arranged with the captain of a small vessel which was 
lying off Xeropotamo taking in a cargo of wood, that he 
should give me a passage in two or three days, when he 
■aid he should be ready to sail ; and in the mean time I 

372 monaster of couTLOtrMoirssi. Chap. XXVII. 

purposed to explore the metropolis of Mount Athos, the 
town of Cariez ; and then to go to Caracalla, and remain 
there till the vessel was ready. Accordingly, the next 
morning I set out, the Agoumenos supplying me with 
mules. The guide did not know how far it was to Cariez, 
which is situated almost in the centre of the Peninsula. I 
found it was only distant one hour and a half; but as I had 
not made arrangements to go on, I was obliged to remain 
there all day. Close to the town is the great monastery of 


the most regular building on Mount Athos. It contains a 
large square court with a cloister of stone arches all round 
it, out of which the cells and chambers open, as they do 
in a Roman Catholic convent. The church stands in the 
centre of this quadrangle, and glories in a famous picture 
of the Last Judgment on the wall of the narthex or porch, 
before the door of entrance. The monastery was at this 
time nearly uninhabited ; but, after some trouble, I found 
one monk, who made great difficulties as to showing me 
the library, for he said a Russian had been there some 
ime ago, and had borrowed a book which he never 
returned. However, at last I gained admission by 
means of that ingenious silver key which opens so 
many locks. 

In a good-sized square room, filled with shelves all 
round, I found a fine, although neglected, collection of 
books ; a great many of them thrown on the floor in heaps, 
and covered all over with dust, which the Russian did not 
appear to have much disturbed when he borrowed the book 


which had occasioned me so much trouble. There were 
about six or seven hundred volumes of printed books, two 
hundred MSS. on paper, and a hundred and fifty on vel- 
lum. I was not permitted to examine this library at all to 
my satisfaction. The solitary monk thought I was a Rus- 
sian, and would not let me alone, or give me the time I 
wanted for my researches. I found a multitude of folios 
and quartos of the works of St. Chrysostom, who seems to 
have been the principal instructor of the monks of Mount 
Athos, that is, in the days when they were in the habit of 
reading — a tedious custom, which they have long since 
given up by general consent. I met also with an Evange- 
listarium, a quarto in uncial letters, but not in very fine 
condition. Two or three other old monks ha.d by this 
time crept out of their holes, but they would not part with 
any of their books : that unhappy Russian had filled the 
minds of the whole brotherhood with suspicion. So we 
went to the church, which was curious and quaint, as they 
all are ; and as we went through all the requisite formali- 
ties before various grim pictures, and showed due respect 
for the sacred character of a Christian church, they began 
at last to believe that I was not a Russian ; but if they had 
seen the contents of the saddle-bags which were sticking 
out bravely on each side of the patient mule at the gate, 
they would perhaps have considered me as something far 

Coutloumoussi was founded by the Emperor Alexius 
Comnenus, and, having been destroyed by " the Pope of 
Rome" was restored by the piety of various hospodars and 
waywodes of Bessarabia. It is difficult to understand 

374 cariez. Chap. XXV1Z 

what these worthy monks can mean when they affirm that 
several of their monasteries have been burned and plun- 
dered by the Pope. Perhaps in the days of the Crusades 
some of the rapacious and undisciplined hordes who accom- 
panied the armies of the Cross — not to rescue the holy 
sepulchre from the power of the Saracens, but for the sake 
of plunder and robbery — may have been attracted by the 
fame of the riches of these peaceful convents, and have 
made the differences in their religion a pretext for sacri- 
lege and rapacity. Thus bands of pirates and brigands in 
the middle ages may have cloaked their acts of violence 
under the specious excuse of devotion to the Church of 
Rome ; and so the Pope has acquired a bad name, and is 
looked upon with terror and animosity by the inhabitants 
of the monasteries of Mount Athos. 

Having seen what I could, I went on to the town of 
Cariez, if it can properly be called such ; for it is difficult 
to explain what it is. One may perhaps say that what 
Washington is to the United States, Cariez is to Mount 
Athos. A few artificers do live there who carve crosses 
and ornaments in cypress- wood. The principal feature 
of the place is the great church of Protaton, which is sur- 
rounded by smaller buildings and chapels. These I saw 
at a distance, but did not visit, because I could get no 
mules, and U was too hot to walk so far. A Turkish aga 
lives here : he is sent by the Porte to collect the revenue 
from the monks, and also to protect them from other Turk- 
ish visitors. He is paid and provided with food by a kind 
of rate which is levied on the twenty-one monasteries of 
ayiov opos, and is in fact a sort of sheep-dog to the flock of 

Chap. XXVII. CARIBZ. 376 

helpless monks who pasture among the trees and rocks of 
the peninsula. On certain days the Agoumenoi of the 
monasteries and the high officers of their communities 
meet at the church of Protaton for the transaction of busi- 
ness and the discussion of affairs. I am sorry I did not 
see this ancient house of parliament. The rooms in which 
these synods or convocations are held adjoin the church. 
Situated at short distances around these principal edifices 
are numerous small ecclesiastical villas, such as were 
called cells in England before the Reformation : these are 
the habitations of the venerable senators when they come 
up to parliament. Some of them are beautifully situated ; 
for Cariez stands in a fair, open vale, half-way up the side 
of the mountain, and commands a beautiful view to the 
north of the sea, with the magnificent island of Samotraki 
looming superbly in the distance. All around are large 
orchards and plantations of peach-trees and of various other 
sorts of fruit-bearing trees in great abundance, and the 
round hills are clothed with greensward. It is a happy, 
peaceful-looking place, and in its trim and sunny arbours 
reminds one of Virgil and Theocritus. 

I went to the house of the aga to seek for a habitation, 
but the aga was asleep ; and who was there so bold as to 
wake a sleeping aga ? Luckily he awoke of his own 
accord ; and he was soon informed by my interpreter that 
an illustrious personage awaited his leisure. He did not 
care for a monk, and not much for an agoumenos ; but he 
felt small in the presence of a mighty Turkish aga. 
Nevertheless, he ventured a few hints as usual about the 
kings and queens who were my first cousins, but in a 


much more subdued tone than usual ; and I was received 
with that courteous civility and good breeding which is so 
frequently met with among Turks of every degree. The 
aga apologised for having no good room to offer me ; but 
he sent out his men to look for a lodging ; and in the mean 
time we went to a kiosk, that is, a place like a large bird- 
cage, with enough roof to make a shade, and no walls to 
impede the free passage of the air. It was built of wood, 
upon a scaffold eight or ten feet from the ground, in the 
corner of a garden, and commanded a fine view of the 
sea. In one corner of this cage I sat all day long, for 
there was nowhere else to go to ; and the aga sat opposite to 
me in another comer, smoking his pipe, in which solacing 
occupation to his great surprise I did not partake. We 
had cups of coffee and sherbet every now and then, and 
about every half-hour the aga uttered a few words of com- 
pliment or welcome, informing me occasionally that there 
were many dervishes in the place, " very many dervishes," 
for so he denominated the monks. Dinner came towards 
evening. There was meat, dolmas, demir tatlessi, olives, 
salad, roast meat, and pilau, that filled up some time ; and 
shortly afterwards I retired to the house of the monastery 
of Russico, a little distance from my kiosk ; and there I 
slept on a carpet on the boards ; and at sunrise was ready 
to continue my journey, as were also the mules. The 
aga gave me some breakfast, at which repast a cat made 
its appearance, with whom the day before I had made 
acquaintance ; but now it came, not alone, but accompa- 
nied by two kittens. " Ah !" said I to the aga, " how is 
this % Why, as I live, this is a she cat ! a oat feminine ! 


What business has it on Mount Athos ? and with kittens 
too ! a wicked cat !" 

" Hush !" said the Aga with a solemn grin ; " do not 
say anything about it. Yes, it must be a she-cat : I allow, 
certainly, that it must be a she-cat. I brought it with me 
from Stamboul. But do not speak of it, or they will take 
it away ; and it reminds me of my home, where my wife 
and children are living far away from me." 

I promised to make no scandal about the cat, and took 
my leave ; and as I rode off I saw him looking at me out 
of his cage with the cat sitting by his side. I was sorry 
I could not take aga and cat and all with me to Stamboul, 
the poor gentleman looked so solitary and melancholy. 



Caracalla— The Agoumenos — Curious Cross — The Nuts of Cara- 
calla— Singular Mode of preparing a Dinner Table — Departure 
from Mount Athos — Packing of the MSS. — Difficulties of the 
Way — Voyage to the Dardanelles— Apprehended Attack from 
Pirates*— Return to Constantinople. 

It took me three hours to reach Caracalla, where the 
agoumenos and Father Joasaph received me with all the 
hospitable kindness of old friends, and at once installed 
me in my old room, which looked into the court, and was 
very cool and quiet. Here I reposed in peace during the 
hotter hours of the day ; and here I received the news 
that the captain, of the vessel which I had hired had left 
me in the lurch and gone out to sea, having, I suppose, 
made some better bargain. This caused me some tribula- 
tion ; but there was nothing to be done but to get another 
vessel ; so I sent back to Xeropotamo, which appeared to 
be the most frequented part of the coast, to see whether 
there was any craft there which could be hired. 

I employed the next day in wandering about with the 
agoumenos and Father Joasaph in all the holes and 
corners of the monastery ; the agoumenos telling me in- 
terminable legends of the saints, and asking Father Joasaph 
if they were not true. I looked over the library, where 
I found an uncial Evangelistarian manuscript of Demos- 
thenes on paper, but of some antiquity ; a manuscript 
of Justin (IouoVivou) in Greek ; and several other manu- 


scripts, — all of which the agoumenos agreed to let me 

One of the monks had a curiously carved cross set in 
silver, which he wished to sell ; but I told the agoumenos 
that it was not sufficiently ancient : I added, however, that 
if I could meet with any ancient cross or shrine or reli- 
quary, I should be delighted to purchase such a thing, and 
that I would give a good price for it. In the afternoon 
it struck him suddenly that as he did not care for antiqui- 
ties, perhaps we might come to an arrangement ; and the 
end of the affair was that he gave me one of the ancient 
crosses which I had seen when I was there before, and 
put the one the monk had to sell in its place ; certain 
pieces of gold which I produced rendering this transaction 
satisfactory to all parties. This mast curious and beauti- 
ful piece of jewellery has been since engraved, and forms 
the subject of the third plate in Shaw's ' Dresses and De- 
corations of the Middle Ages,' London, 1843. It had 
been presented to the monastery by the Emperor John, 
whom, from what I was told by the agoumenos, I take to 
have been John Zimisces. It is one of the most ancient 
as well as one of the finest relics of its kind now existing 
in England. 

On the evening of the second day my man returned 
from Xeropotamo with the information that he had found 
a small Greek brig, and had engaged to give the patron or 
captain eleven hundred piastres for our passage thence to 
the Dardanelles the next day, if I could manage to be 
ready in so short a time. As fortunately I had purchased 
all the manuscripts which I wished to possess, there was 


nothing to detain me on Mount Atbos: for I had now 
visited every monastery excepting that of St. Anne, which 
indeed is not a monastery like the rest, but a mere collec- 
tion of hermitages or cells at the extreme point of the 
peninsula, immediately under the great peak of the moun- 
tain. I was told that there was nothing there worth see- 
ing ; but still I am sorry that I did not make a pilgrimage 
to so original a community, who it appears live on roots 
and herbs, and are the most strict of all the ascetics in 
this strange monastic region. 

All of a sudden, as we were walking quietly together, 
the agoumenos asked me if I knew what was the price of 
nuts at Constantinople. 

" Nuts V 9 said I. 

" Yes, nuts," said he ; " hazel-nuts : nuts are excellent 
things. Have they a good supply of nuts at Constanti- 

« Well," said 1, " I don't know ; but I dare say they 
have. But why, my Lord, do you ask ? Why do you 
wish to know the price of hazel-nuts at Constantinople ?" 

" Oh !" said the agoumenos, " they do not eat half nuts 
enough at StambouL Nuts are excellent things. They 
should be eaten more than they are. People say that nuts 
are unwholesome ; but it is a great mistake." And so 
saying, he introduced me into a set of upper rooms that I 
had not previously entered, the entire floors of which were 
covered two feet deep with nuts. I never saw one-hun- 
dredth part so many before. The good agoumenos, it 
seems, had been speculating in hazel-nuts ; and a vessel 
was to come to the little tower of the scaricatojo down 


below to be freighted with them : they were to produce a 
prodigious profit, and defray the expense of finishing the 
new buildings of Car ac all a. 

" Take some," said he ; " don't be afraid ; there are 
plenty. Take some, and taste them, and then you can tell 
your friends at Constantinople what a peculiar flavour you 
found in the famous nuts of Athos ; and in all Athos 
every one knows that there are no nuts like those of Cara- 
calla l» 

They were capital nuts ; but as it was before dinner, 
and I was ravenously hungry, and my lord the agoumenos 
had not brought a bottle of sherry in his pocket, I did not 
particularly relish them. But there had been great talk- 
ing during the morning between the agoumenos and Pater 
Joasaph about a famous large fish which was to be cooked 
for dinner ; and, as the important hour was approaching, 
we adjourned to my sitting-room. Father Joasaph was 
already there, having washed his hands and seated him- 
self on the divan, in order to regulate the proceedings of 
the lay brother who acted as butler. The preparations 
for the banquet were made. The lay brother first brought 
in the table-cloth, which he spread upon the ground in one 
corner of the room ; then he turned the table upside down 
upon the table-cloth, with its legs in the air ; next he 
brought two immense flagons, one of wine, and the other 
of water ; these were made of copper tinned, and were 
each a foot and a half high ; he set them down on the 
carpet a little way from the table-cloth ; and round the 
table he placed three cushions for the agoumenos, Pater 
Joasaph, and me ; and then he went away to hfing the 

882 BARLAAM. Chap. XX VI II. 

dinner. He soon reappeared, bringing in, with the assist- 
ance of another stout catechumen, the whole of the dinner 
on a large circular tray of well-polished brass called a 
sinni. This was so formed as to fix on the sticking-up 
legs of the subverted table, and, with the aid of Pater 
Joasaph, it was soon all tight and straight. In a great 
centre-dish there appeared the big fish in a sea of sauce 
surrounded by a mountainous shore of ice. Round this 
luxurious centre stood a circle of smaller dishes, olives, 
caviare, salad (no eggs, because there were no hens), papas 
yaknesi, and several sweet things. Two cats followed the 
dinner into the room, and sat down demurely side by side. 
The fish looked excellent, and had a most savoury smell. 
I had washed my hands, and was preparing to sit down, 
when the Father Abbot, who was not thinking of the din- 
ner, took this inopportune moment to begin one of his in- 
terminable stories. 

" We have before spoken,'* he said, " of the many kings, 
princes, and patriarchs who have given up the world and 
ended their days here in peace. One of the most im- 
portant epochs in the history of Mount Athos occurred 
about the year 1336, when a Calabrian monk, a man of 
great learning though of mean appearance, whose name 
was Barlaam, arrived on a pilgrimage to venerate the 
sacred relics of our famous sanctuaries. He found here 
many holy men, who, having retired entirely from the 
world, by communing with themselves in the privacy of 
their own cells, had arrived at that state of calm beatitude 
and heavenly contemplation, that the eternal light of 
Mount Tabor was revealed to them." 


" Mount Tabor ?" said I. 

" Yes," said the agoumenos, " the light which had been 
seen during the time of the Transfiguration by the 
apostles, and which had always existed there, was seen 
by those who, after years of solitude and penance and 
maceration of the flesh, had arrived at that state of 
abstraction from all earthly things that in their bodies they 
saw the divine light. They in those good times would sit 
alone in their chambers with their eyes cast down upon 
the region of their navel ; this was painful at first, both 
from the fixedness ol the attitude required, with the head 
bent down upon the breast, and from the workings of the 
mind, which seemed to wander in the regions of darkness 
and space. At last, when they had persevered in fasting 
day and night with no change of thought or attitude for 
many hours, they began to feel a wonderful satisfaction ; 
a ray of joy ineffable would seem to illuminate the brain ; 
and no sooner had the soul discovered the place of the 
heart than it was involved in a mystic and ethereal 

" Ah," said I, " really !" 

"Now this Barlaam being a carnal and worldly- 
minded man, took upon himself to doubt the efficacy of 
this bodily and mental discipline ; it is said that he even 
ventured to ridicule the venerable fathers who gave them- 
selves up so entirely to the contemplation of the light of 
Mount Tabor. Not only did he question the merits of 
these ascetic acts, but, being learned in books, and being 

* Mosheim's * Ecclesiastical History ;' Gibbon. 


endowed with great powers of eloquence and persuasion, 
he infused doubts into the minds of others of the monks 
and anchorites of Mount Athos. Arguments were used 
on both sides ; conversations arose upon these subjects ; 
arguments grew into disputations, conversations into con- 
troversies, till at last, from the most peaceful and regular 
of communities, the peninsula of the holy mountain be- 
came from one end to the other a theatre of discord, doubt, 
and difference ; the flames of contention were lit up ; 
every thing was unsettled; men knew not what to think ; 
till at last, with general consent, the unhappy intruder 
was dismissed from all the monasteries ; and, flying from 
the storm of angry words which he had raised on all sides 
around him, he departed from Mount Athos and retired to 
the city of Constantinople. There his specious manners, 
his knowledge of the language of the Latins, and the 
dissensions he had created in the church, brought him into 
notice at court ; and now not only were the monks of 
Mount Athos and Olympus divided against each other, but 
the city was split into parties of theological disputants ; 
clamour and acrimony raged on every side. The emperor 
Andronicus, willing to remove the cause of so much con- 
tention, and being at the same time surrounded with diffi- 
culties on all sides (for the unbelieving Turks, commanded 
by the fierce Orchan, had with their unnumbered tribes 
overrun Bithynia and many of the provinces of the Chris- 
tian emperor), he graciously condescended to give his im- 
perial mandate that the monk Barlaam should [here the 
two cats became vociferous in their impatience for the 
fish] be sent on an embassy to the Pope of Rome ; he was 


empowered to ester into negotiations for the settlement of 
all religious differences between the Eastern and Western 
churches, on condition that the Latin princes should 
assist the emperor to drive the Turks back into the confines 
of Asia. The Emperor Andronicus died from a fever 
brought oa by excitement in defending the cause of the 
ascetic ^uietists before a council in his palace. John 
Paleologus was set aside; and John Caatacuzene, in a 
desperate endeavour to please all parties, gave his 
daughter Theodora to Orchan the emperor of the Qsman- 
lis; and at his coronation the purple buskin of his right 
leg was fastened on by the Greeks, and that of his left leg 
by the Latins. Notwithstanding these concessions, the 
embassy of Barlaam, the most important with which any 
diplomatic agent was ever trusted, failed altogether from 
the troubles of the times. The Emperor John Cantacuzene, 
who celebrated his own acts in an edict beginning with 
the words * by my sublime and almost incredible virtue,' 
gave up the reins of power, and taking the name of 
Josaph, became a monk of one of the monasteries of the 
holy mountain, which was then known by the name of the 
monastery of Mangane, while the monk Barlaam was 
created Bishop of Gerace, in Italy." 

By the time the good abbot had come to the conclusion 
of his history, the fish was cold and the dinner spoilt ; but 
I thought his account of the extraordinary notions which 
the monks of those dark ages had formed of the duties of 
Christianity so curious, that it almost compensated for the 
calamity of losing the only good dinner which I had seen . 
on Mount Athos. 



What a difference it would have made in the affairs of 
Europe if the Embassy of Barlaam had succeeded ! The 
Turks would not have been now in possession of Constanti- 
nople ; and many points of difference having been mutu- 
ally conceded by the two great divisions of the church, 
perhaps the Reformation never would have taken place. 
The narration of these events was the more interesting to 
me, as I had it from the lips of a monk who to all intents 
and purposes was living in the darkness of remote anti- 
quity. His ample robes, his long beard, and the Byzantine 
architecture of the ancient room in which we sat, impressed 
his words upon my remembrance ; and as I looked upon 
the eager countenance of the abbot, whose thoughts still 
were fixed upon the world from which he had retired, 
while he discoursed of the troubles and discords which had 
invaded the peaceful glades and quiet solitudes of the holy 
mountain, I felt that there was no place left on this side of 
the grave where the wicked cease from troubling or where 
the weary are at rest. No places, however, that I have 
seen equal the beauty of the scenery and the calm retired 
look of the small farm houses, if they may so be called, 
which I met with in my rides on the declivities of Mount 
Athos. These buildings are usually situated on the sides 
of hills opening on the land which the monastic labourers 
cultivate ; they consist of a small square tower, usually 
appended to which are one or two little stone cottages, and 
an ancient chapel, from which the tinkling of the bar 
which calls the monks to prayer may be heard many 
. times a day echoing softly through the lovely glades of the 
primaeval forest. The ground is covered in some places 


with anemones and cyclamen ; waterfalls are met with at 
the head of half the valleys, pouring their refreshing 
waters over marble rocks. If the great mountain itself, 
which towers up so grandly above the enchanting scenery 
below, had been carved into the form of a statue of Alexan- 
der the Great, according to the project of Lysippus, though 
a wonderful effort of human labour, it could hardly have 
added to the beauty of the scene, which is so much 
increased by the appearance of the monasteries, whose 
lofty towers and rounded domes appear almost like the 
palaces -we read of in a fairy tale. 

The next morning, at an early hour, mules were wait- 
ing in the court to carry me across the hills to the harbour 
below the monastery of Xeropotamo, where the Greek brig 
was lying which was to convey me and my treasures from 
these peaceful shores. Emptying out my girdle, I calcu- 
lated how much, or rather how little money would suffice 
to pay the expenses of my voyage to the Asiatic castle of 
the Dardanelles, feeling assured that from thence I could 
get credit for a passage in the magnificent steamer The 
Stamboul, which ran between Smyrna and Constantinople. 
With the reservation of this sum, I gave the agoumenos all 
my remaining gold, and in return he provided me with an 
old wooden chest, in which I stowed away several goodly 
folios; for the saddle-bags, although distended to their 
utmost limits, did not suffice to carry all the great manu- 
scripts and ponderous volumes that were now added to my 
store. Turning out the corn from the nosebags of the 
mules, I put one or two smaller books in each ; and, after 
all, an extra mule was sent for to convey the surplus tomes 


over the rough and craggy ridge which we were to pass in 
our journey to the other sea. Although the stories of the 
agoumenos were too windy and too long, I was sorry 
to part from him, and I took an affectionate leave also 
of Pater Joasaph and the two cats. Unfortunately, in the 
hurry of departure, I left on the divan the MS. of Justin, 
which I had been trying to decipher, and forgot it when I 
came away. It was a small thick octavo, on charta bom- 
bycina, and was probably kicked into the nearest cornei 
as soon as I evacuated the monastery. 

Our ride was a very rough one. We had first to ascend 
the hill, in some places through deep ravines, and in others 
through most glorious forests of gigantic trees, mostly 
planes, with a thick underwood of those aromatic flowering 
evergreens which so beautifully clothe the hills of Greece 
and this part of Turkey. When we had crossed the upper 
ridge of rock, leaving the peak of Athos towering to the 
sky on our left, we had to descend the dry bed of a torrent 
so full of great stones and fallen rocks, that it appeared 
impossible for anything but a goat to travel on such a road. 
I got off my mule, and began jumping from one rock 
to another on the edge of the precipice ; but the sun was 
so powerful that in a short time I was completely exhaust- 
ed ; and on looking at the mules I saw that one after 
another they jumped down so unerringly over chasms and 
broken rocks, alighting so precisely in the exact place 
where there was standing-room for their feet, that, after a 
little consideration, I remounted my mule; and keeping 
my seat, without holding the bridle, we hopped and skip- 
ped from rock to rock down this extraordinary track, until 


in due time we arrived safely at the sea shore, close to the 
mouth of the little river of Xeropotamo. My manuscripts 
and myself were soon embarked, and with a favouring 
breeze we stood out into the Gulf of Monte Santo, and had 
leisure to survey the scenery of this superb peninsula as 
we glided round the lofty marble rocks and noble forests 
which formed the back-ground to the strange and pic- 
turesque Byzantine monasteries with every one of which 
we had become acquainted. 

Being a little nervous on account of the pirates, of whom 
I had heard many stories during my sojourn on Mount 
Athos, I questioned the master of the vessel on the subject. 
" Oh," said he, " the sea is now very quiet ; there have 
been no pirates about the coast for the last fortnight." 
This assurance hardly satisfied me. How terrible it 
would be to see these precious volumes thrown into the 
sea, like my unhappy precursor's MS. of Homer ! It was 
frightful to think of ! We were three days at sea, there 
being at this fine season very little wind. Once we thought 
we were chased by a wicked-looking cutter with a large 
white mainsail, which kept to windward of us ; but in the 
end, after some hours of deadly tribulation, during which I 
hid the manuscripts as well as I could under all kinds of 
rubbish in the hold, we descried the stars and stripes of 
America upon her ensign ; so then I pulled all the old 
books out again. This cutter was, I suppose, a tender to 
some American man-of-war. On the evenjng of the third 
day we found ourselves safe under the guns of Roumeli 
Calessi, the European castle of the Dardanelles ; and, 
afUr a good deal of tedious tacking, we got across to the 


Asiatic castle at Coom Calessi, where I landed with all my 
treasures. Before long, the Smyrna steamer, The Stam- 
boul, hove in sight, and I took my passage in her to 


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